CARSON CITY — The marriage between Gov. Jim Gibbons and wife Dawn is on the rocks, sources said Thursday, and the couple might be considering a divorce.
Las Vegas political consultant Jim Denton, who worked on Gibbons’ campaign for governor, said the couple is "going through difficult times."
"Almost every family has its ups and downs over the years, but most aren’t in the public arena where it becomes instant news," he added.
In an interview with the Reno Gazette-Journal posted online Thursday, the governor’s chief operating officer, Dianne Cornwall, said the couple intends to have a weekend family meeting to discuss their marital problems.
"And I’m not certain that a decision has been made," Cornwall said.
Another source close to the governor, who requested anonymity, confirmed there will be a weekend family meeting.
Media outlets, including the Review-Journal, have been trying to confirm persistent rumors over the past week that the Gibbons’ 23-year marriage is over and that the governor has moved out of the Governor’s Mansion in Carson City and is living in the couple’s home in southwest Reno.
Before the rumors were first reported late Wednesday on political blogs, no mention of their marriage difficulties had been made publicly.
Neither Dawn nor Jim Gibbons has returned calls, and the governor’s outgoing press secretary, Melissa Subbotin, has declined to answer questions about a possible marriage dissolution.
The couple’s 20-year-old son, Jimmy, is due back in Nevada this weekend on leave from his sophomore year at the U.S. Merchant Marines Academy in Kings Point, N.Y.
The governor also has two grown children — Christopher Gibbons and Jennifer Rich — from a previous marriage and three grandchildren.
Despite the rumors that their marriage is in jeopardy, Dawn Gibbons accompanied her husband Saturday through Monday to a National Governors Association meeting in Washington, D.C.
Close friends of the couple said last week that they knew nothing about troubles in the marriage.
In an interview last October, Dawn Gibbons spoke positively of the couple’s relationship and told a reporter funny stories about when they first met.
She vehemently defended her husband during the 2006 governor’s race when cocktail waitress Chrissy Mazzeo accused him of attempting to coerce her into sex in a parking structure near a Las Vegas restaurant.
At one point, she angrily confronted a Review-Journal reporter and demanded to know why the newspaper had reported unfounded allegations.
Police investigated Mazzeo’s allegations and declined to file charges against Gibbons.
Reports that their marriage was troubled first surfaced in 1996 when Jim Gibbons won his first of five terms in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Dawn Gibbons did not live with him in Washington while he served in Congress. She said she preferred remaining in Reno and raising their son in a better environment.
She then entered politics herself and won three terms in the Assembly.
Before that, Dawn Gibbons stepped in for her husband, then a little-known Reno assemblyman, when he was called into active duty in 1991 for service during Operation Desert Storm in the Persian Gulf.
A long-time commercial airline pilot and member of the Nevada National Guard, Jim Gibbons flew on dangerous reconnaissance missions in the Persian Gulf.
His wife replaced him in the Assembly during that short war and then stepped down to allow him to return to his seat when he returned home.
She also ran for the 2nd Congressional District seat that he gave up when he ran for governor. She lost the primary.
Marriages of all but one Nevada governor over the past 40 years have been long and appeared strong.
The exception was Gov. Robert List, who held a news conference in 1981 to report that he and his wife, Kathy, had separated.
They later reconciled but divorced several years later after List left the governor’s office.
Contact Capital Bureau Chief Ed Vogel at email@example.com or (775) 687-3901.