Nevada’s Democratic governor was accosted. Here’s how his GOP opponents responded
Gov. Steve Sisolak and his wife were threatened at a Las Vegas restaurant. The state GOP condemned the verbal attack, but most of those seeking the party’s nomination for governor took at different approach
Candidates seeking Nevada’s GOP gubernatorial nomination separated themselves this week in their responses to a threatening verbal attack against incumbent Gov. Steve Sisolak, a Democrat.
The drama unfolded Sunday, when Sisolak and his wife were subjected to a profanity-laced rant in a Las Vegas restaurant by two men, one of whom threatened the governor by says he would, “string you up by a lamppost.”
The Las Vegas Review-Journal posted the cellphone video of the incident. The Associated Press reported that a video posted to Instagram splices together scenes of the incident from two vantage points.
“Where’s your security at, punk, huh?” one man asks, pointing his cellphone toward Sisolak’s face. As the governor’s wife, Kathy Sisolak, joins the governor to leave, the man trails them, declaring, “You working-for-China (expletive).”
Kathy Sisolak, who was born in Ely, Nevada, is of Asian descent.
Another man seen pushing a child away as he rises from a restaurant booth follows, calling Sisolak a traitor. The man says the governor should be hung, then turns and returns toward the restaurant.
The video ends in the restaurant’s parking lot, where Sisolak’s daughter, Ashley Sisolak, a lawyer and public defender, rushes to the governor and his wife near their vehicle.
“Because your daughter’s with you, I’m going to leave you alone now,” the man said as he turned away, the AP reported.
The incident, which is being investigated by state police, comes as Republicans hope to take back the governor’s seat that Sisolak captured in 2018. He became the first Democratic governor in Nevada in 20 years and is seeking a second term in a state that has slipped out of GOP control.
After the video was published, the Nevada GOP issued a statement saying “there is no place for the behavior and violent threats against the governor we saw on video from this weekend.
Chairman Michael J. McDonald urged voters to express their views “at the ballot box by electing our Republican nominee, not at a restaurant as (Sisolak) sits down for a meal with his wife and children.”
But responses from those seeking the GOP nomination were mixed in condemning the verbal attack against their Democratic opponent and his family.
Former U.S. Sen. Dean Heller and North Las Vegas Mayor John Lee have opted to say nothing, the Reno Gazette Journal reported. And conservative firebrands Joey Gilbert and Michele Fiore said Sisolak was asking for it and should expect more of it.
Gilbert, a Reno attorney and former boxer, wrote on Facebook he couldn’t “think of a more deserving person” than Sisolak to get harassed and threatened.
“Hell no I do not condemn it,” he wrote. “You earned it Steve. You absolutely earned it.”
The Las Vegas Sun reported that Fiore, a Las Vegas city councilwoman, said Sisolak was “lucky it was just words” and “if you look at the history of dictators pitchforks will be next.”
Only Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo saw the incident as out of line.
“While I understand the frustration with Gov. Sisolak and his left-wing policies, no one deserves to be accosted while trying to enjoy a peaceful meal with their family,” Lombardo said in a statement. ”Hateful verbal abuse and violent threats have no place in our political system.”
A recent poll by the Nevada Independent showed Lombardo comfortably ahead all candidates seeking the GOP nomination. The same poll showed Sisolak over Lombardo, 52% to 48%, at the time the poll was taken in January.
The weekend confrontation in Las Vegas, comes at a time when threats against public officials have surged, The New York Times reported, citing its recent review of more than 75 indictments of people charged with threatening lawmakers since 2016.
Utah Gov. Spencer Cox, a Republican, recently defended previously undisclosed expenditures for security at his private home in rural Utah because of “serious concerns about real threats and vulnerabilities.”
In Nevada, a statement following Sunday’s encounter the governor’s office said that Sisolak was “deeply disappointed in how this incident unfolded, particularly with the language used to talk about first lady Kathy Sisolak’s heritage. We can disagree about the issues, but the personal attacks and threats are unwarranted, unwelcome and unbecoming behavior for Nevadans.”
One of the men who accosted the governor and his wife was defiant at a news conference he held on Tuesday in Las Vegas, the Times reported.
“I will not apologize for speaking out and expressing two years of frustration,” Justin Andersch said. “I will not apologize for holding public officials responsible for their choices.”
He blamed his job loss on Sisolak’s policies responding to the pandemic.
Andersch is a self-described “digital creator” who promotes far-right anti-government conspiracy theories on a blog called “Cannabis and Combat,” the AP reported.
Sisolak’s campaign issued a statement saying that without strong condemnation of last weekend’s encounter, more of the same can be expected.
“Words have consequences — and the GOP field should be horrified that their rhetoric is encouraging violence,” the campaign stated. ”Anything less than a denunciation is condoning this behavior and encouraging it to continue.”