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After Joey Gilbert election challenge, a potential schism in the state GOP

Jacob Solis
Jacob Solis
Election 2022
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More than two weeks after a Carson City judge ruled against former Republican gubernatorial candidate and Reno-area lawyer Joey Gilbert in his bid to undo his primary loss to Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo, Gilbert has yet to file a promised appeal of the decision to the state Supreme Court as of Monday afternoon.  

Gilbert — who lost to Lombardo by 26,000 votes — argued in his suit that nefarious election “algorithms” had switched votes to deny him victory. District Court Judge James Wilson blocked the suit, however, calling Gilbert’s key witness testimony “hearsay, first of all” and saying that Gilbert’s suit had not met the legal standards required for election challenges.  

As of Friday, the district court docket, obtained by The Nevada Independent, instead showed that Lombardo’s attorneys had filed a motion for sanctions last week, seeking attorney’s fees through the state’s frivolous litigation laws. 

That motion also excoriated the suit more broadly, calling the underlying mathematical theories “wacky” and “nonsensical,” as well as characterizing Gilbert’s key witness testimony, in part, as “the unknown mathematical analysis of a self-styled amateur mathematician who Mr. Gilbert concedes is patently unqualified.”  

Gilbert’s attorney, Craig Mueller, did not return a call left with his office on Monday. 

The delay comes despite Gilbert vowing an appeal and saying “we’re not going anywhere” in a Facebook broadcast just days after the initial decision was reached by Wilson earlier this month.

In that broadcast, streamed live on Aug. 16, Gilbert said that “I'm not telling everybody not to vote. You're gonna do what you're going to do.” He also urged his supporters to back other statewide candidates. 

However, he also continued to criticize Lombardo, saying in part that he had “no crossover appeal” and that “real Republicans aren’t going to vote for him.” 

“I have not accused Lombardo of anything,” Gilbert said. “I don't think he’s smart enough to be in it, and he probably thinks he won, because he thinks he won. Which, that’s unfortunate, he didn’t win.” 

Gilbert also said that, barring an agreement from the Lombardo campaign to audit the election and support a switch to hand-counted paper ballots, “There’s no way I can ask my people, you people here, to vote for him.” 

Still, Gilbert, a Reno-based attorney, stopped short of criticizing Wilson directly, even as he decried his ruling. 

“I could never say anything derogatory about either one of them,” he said, referring to both Wilson and the other Carson City District Court judge, James Russell. “They’ve always been fair to me.” 

Gilbert said in a separate Facebook post last week that Lombardo has “no chance whatsoever without my supporters” and that “The GOP should not have ‘selected’ such a dud.” 

All the while, state Republicans have internally chafed at Gilbert’s challenge. During a luncheon for the Republican Women of Reno on Aug. 11 — one day after the ruling came down in the Gilbert election challenge — state GOP Chair Michael McDonald told the crowd that: “We have enemies from within the Republican Party that are throwing marbles at our feet so we fall.”

“The time for saying, ‘oh Joe Lombardo this and Adam Laxalt that,’ that’s gone, that is over,” McDonald said. “The line has been drawn. You’re either with us, or against us."

McDonald’s most recent comments echo a push from state Republicans to fall behind Lombardo in July, after Gilbert initially filed suit. That includes another Republican gubernatorial candidate, Dean Heller, who finished in third place behind Lombardo and Gilbert. 

In a statement released by the Lombardo campaign, Heller said that “I’ve seen lawsuits like this far too often.”

“They’re almost always counterproductive and can do serious damage to the reputation of the Republican Party,” he wrote.

Editor’s Note: This story appears in Indy 2022, The Nevada Independent’s newsletter dedicated to comprehensive coverage of the 2022 election. Sign up for the newsletter here.

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