RENO — Keeping your public image spotless before a highly critical public is one of the most difficult things about being a political leader. Just ask Jim Gibbons. The 65-year-old Nevada Governor has finally reached a divorce settlement with wife Dawn, after more than a year and a half of squabbling over property issues and infidelity accusations. He got out of the marriage — but at what cost to his career?
According to the agreement, Gibbons will pay $275,000 to his ex-wife, plus 25% of his gross monthly income over a period of five years. The Governor will keep the family’s gun collection, Dawn Gibbons will keep their art, and each of them gets a Model T from their car collections. The former couple will sell their property holdings, which include a home in Reno and 40 acres in Elko County.
“It’s over and finished,” Gibbons told reporters after the court hearing, which occurred on Monday. “I’m happy it’s finished.”
Dawn Gibbons had accused her husband of using her to benefit his career and of having affairs with at least two women, one of whom was a former Playboy model. The Governor compared living in the same house as his wife to “being locked in a phone booth with an enraged ferret”, according to court documents, and attempted to kick her out of the Carson City gubernatorial mansion.
The character attacks had no bearing on the divorce outcome, since Nevada is a no-fault state. But they have had an unmistakable effect on Gibbons’ approval ratings, which have plummeted below 20% during the media sensationalism of his divorce.
Gibbons is up for reelection this year. “All the stars would have to align in a way I’ve never seen in politics for him to win,” Eric Herzik, chair of the political-science department at the University of Nevada at Reno, told the Los Angeles Times regarding Gibbons’ reelection chances.
Gibbons’ divorce lawyer, Gary Silverman, had suggested in court papers that Dawn Gibbons’ plan was deliberately to jeopardize her husband’s future as Governor. “She knows that if she can drag this case (and her headlines) into the next election cycle,” Silverman had written, “she will more greatly damage his career.
But Dawn Gibbons denied this insinuation to reporters after Monday’s hearing. “I don’t want to do anything to dishonor my state, and this agreement reflects that,” she said.
Jim and Dawn Gibbons married in June 1986. The Governor filed for divorce in May 2008 and cited “incompatibility”.