Nevada gov. fires adviser over first lady comment

AP News
|
Posted: Dec 30, 2009 7:55 PM

Gov. Jim Gibbons fired his campaign adviser Wednesday for comments that described first ladies as "window dressing."

Gibbons said Robert Olmer's comments earlier this week to a Reno newspaper were demeaning, sexist, and do not reflect his own feelings.

"I again apologize for Mr. Olmer's remarks and I am taking this action to make sure this does not happen again," Gibbons said in a statement.

Hours after a judge on Monday approved a divorce settlement between the governor and Dawn Gibbons, Olmer told the Reno Gazette-Journal that not having a first lady in the governor's mansion wouldn't be an issue, because any first lady "is to a large extent window dressing, just showing up for public events."

The first-term Republican governor, who is up for re-election in 2010, said he wouldn't tolerate such sentiments from his campaign staff.

Olmer has said his remarks were misinterpreted.

"She has been a great proponent to various charities," he told KRNV-TV in Reno on Tuesday. "I certainly didn't mean anything negative toward Dawn."

A recent poll conducted for the Las Vegas Review-Journal said Gibbons' approval rating rose to 19 percent in December after falling into single-digits last summer.

He already faces at least two challengers in a GOP primary set for June 8 _ former U.S. District Judge Brian Sandoval and former North Las Vegas Mayor Mike Montandon. Rory Reid, the son of U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, is running for the office as a Democrat.

Political analysts said Olmer's departure leaves Gibbons' struggling re-election bid in further chaos.

Gibbons already faced backlash from female voters after the lengthy and bitter divorce proceedings, said Eric Herzik, political scientist at the University of Nevada, Reno. The governor was in damage control mode when he fired Olmer, he said.

"So, making a comment that further infuriates women was just incredible bad timing," Herzik said.

But with the Nevada primary just months away, Gibbons will have a hard time finding someone to try to turn his campaign around.

"I don't know who else Gibbons has," Herzik said. "He's burned through a great many advisers now. Most everybody else is linked to a campaign already."

Gibbons said in his statement that first ladies in Nevada, including Dawn Gibbons, have worked hard for vital causes and charities.

"I am adamant about this," he said. "I have no patience and no place for any person on my campaign staff that feels otherwise."

Olmer's remark also brought swift criticism from many charitable organizations and causes Dawn Gibbons has helped as first lady.

"What a horrible thing to say in light of all that Dawn Gibbons has done for the autism community," said Ralph Toddre, founder of the Autism Coalition of Nevada.

Producers of Nevada's methamphetamine prevention campaign, "Crystal Darkness: Meth's Deadly Assault on Nevada's Youth," also came to Dawn Gibbons' defense, saying she was a driving force behind its success. The campaign has since been adopted by other states.