Gov. Jim Gibbons won’t have much money to fuel his final push to hang onto his job, raising only about one-fifth as much in campaign contributions as Republican challenger Brian Sandoval.
Gibbons’ latest campaign finance and expense report shows he raised $178,924 and spent $184,022 from January through May, leaving him without enough money to advertise on television before primary voting concludes Tuesday.
It means the embattled Gibbons could become the first incumbent governor since Nevada’s first television stations opened in 1953 to run a campaign without TV ads, one state historian said. It also reinforces the notion he is a long shot to stay in office. Gibbons has advertised on the radio and has a website.
Gibbons’ longtime friend and volunteer campaign manager Ron Bath says what the campaign lacks in cash it makes up for in enthusiasm from supporters.
“The folks that are contributing are contributing from their heart,” Bath said. “Some of them aren’t huge contributors but they believe in the governor.”
Gibbons did receive some major contributions, including $20,000 from Las Vegas Sands Corp. and other companies related to resort mogul Sheldon Adelson, $10,000 from Riverside Resort in Laughlin, $10,000 from Wynn Resorts, $10,000 combined from South Point Hotel & Casino and another company led by Michael Gaughan and $5,000 from Treasure Island owner Phil Ruffin.
But the vast majority of contributions were small and from donors in rural and Northern Nevada, where Gibbons enjoys his greatest support.
“Brian Sandoval seems to have most of the institutional investors,” said Robert Olmer, Gibbons’ former campaign manager. “I think it just had very much to do with his poll numbers.”
Sandoval has disclosed raising about $900,000 and having $576,000 in the bank. Former North Las Vegas Mayor Mike Montandon reported raising about $80,000 and spending $113,000.
Statewide polls have shown Sandoval with a near 20-percentage-point lead over Gibbons, with Montandon a distant third.
But Gibbons maintains a core of support among ardent conservatives who say the governor has kept his promise to fight tax increases, despite having a tenure marred by allegations of marital infidelity, political gaffes and the worst recession in state history.
If Gibbons loses to Sandoval, he would be the first incumbent governor in state history to lose his party’s primary while seeking re-election.
Republican political consultant Ryan Erwin called it “strange and sad” that, barring a shocking comeback, Gibbons’ gubernatorial tenure is winding toward an ignominious conclusion.
“An incumbent governor should be able to out-raise any opponents of his own party,” Erwin said.
Bath said the campaign has no plans to advertise on television, which means Gibbons won’t have a chance to launch a televised attack on Sandoval or reinforce his own credentials in time for the primary.
Historian and former state archivist Guy Rocha said he can remember governors dating back to Grant Sawyer, who served from 1959-67, advertising on television.
“I cannot think of a governor since Grant Sawyer who didn’t use television,” Rocha said. “That’s based on growing up in the state.”
Contact reporter Benjamin Spillman at bspillman@ reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3861.