Commentary

It’s about more than just some delusional Nye County commissioner

August 10, 2021 5:47 am
sisolak nye county commissioner

Not Ted Cruz. (Nevada Current file photo)

“I urge every Nevada Republican elected official and candidate to join me in calling out this bigotry,” Gov. Steve Sisolak said in a statement issued Monday.

Sisolak was referring to remarks made by Republican Nye County Commissioner Donna Cox. According to columnist John L. Smith, writing in the Nevada Independent, Cox accused Sisolak’s wife of pandemic profiteering, because, you know, China:

“I’m going to tell you all something about the governor, and I have a picture of the governor and his wife in order to prove this,” Cox said. “… she is Chinese. And you put two and two together, they actually said that her family in China own a company that’s making a lot of money off of this issue. That she’s here in the United States promoting and selling all these masks and emergency equipment and everything, and they’re all being shipped over from China. So that’s why I call it monetarial. Is there any better reason in the world to want to do a mask mandate? That’s a direct conflict of interest. Maybe he should step aside. He shouldn’t be involved in this.”

Kathy Ong Sisolak was born in Ely, went to school at UNLV, and co-founded Hobbs, Ong & Associates, a financial consulting firm that has historically done a lot of work with Nevada and local governments.

“I am furious after hearing vile, blatantly racist comments made against my wife,” Sisolak said in his statement. 

Yes, there’s a political benefit for Sisolak to forcefully unload on Cox — not just any delusional nitwit, but an elected one — for using a public meeting to say Kathy Sisolak “is Chinese,” ergo, insidious. And Sisolak didn’t issue his statement through his official press office or his governor’s office twitter account, but on his reelection campaign account.

But there’s every reason to believe he is also genuinely pissed. No one is likely to forgive and forget after someone maligns their spouse. Except Ted Cruz.

In his statement, Sisolak also called out “the anti-Asian racism brought on by misinformation regarding COVID-19,” adding comments like Cox’s “can only take us backward.”

And Sisolak called on Republicans to denounce Cox’s racism, too.

Some of them did. “We add our voice in support of our native Nevadan First Lady Kathy Sisolak,” the Nevada Assembly Republicans said Monday while retweeting Sisolak’s statement. “Assembly Republicans denounce in the strongest sense of the term, any prejudice against our Asian American community.”

State Senate Republicans called on Cox to apologize for “bigoted and disrespectful comments.”

But those vying to oppose Sisolak next November, including Joe Lombardo and John Lee, had as of Tuesday morning said nothing publicly about Cox. Same goes for Rep. Mark Amodei, who is mulling a run for governor.

This isn’t about Cox. And the statements of legislative Republicans notwithstanding, this isn’t confined to anti-Asian racism — as if that in itself weren’t bad enough.

To say nothing about Cox or this sorry installment of “Home Means Nevada But Not In A Nice Way” would be of a piece for Republicans, an echo of all manner of hedging, hiding, and generally not helping.

Elected officials in Nye County are far from the only goofs spouting conspiracy theories at public meetings. Yet Republicans, whether in office or seeking one, are generally afraid to call out and correct misinformation about the pandemic, masks, and vaccines. Doing so might upset a valuable part of the Republican base. Lombardo displayed his bravery and leadership during this troubled time by removing a photo of himself getting vaccinated from his campaign photo feed.

Last week a crowded audience applauded when Elko County Commissioners effectively voted to just say no to state mask requirements. Less than a third of county residents have been vaccinated. But don’t wait for John Lee (still unvaccinated, presumably) to parachute into Elko to encourage Nevadans to help protect their neighbors by getting their shots.

Some rural Nevada counties have formally joined an organization dedicated to the premise that there is no higher legal authority in any U.S. jurisdiction than the local sheriff — not even the U.S. Constitution. Think Bundy, but without the cows. In fact, this lot is ideologically joined at the hip with so-called “sovereign citizens,” a movement that inspired Bundy fanatics to kill two Metro police officers.

Will Lombardo, a Metro sheriff after all, dare to disagree with his rural law enforcement colleagues? Or would doing something to quell budding insurrectionists be too politically risky in a GOP primary? Maybe self-styled constitutional worshipper and presumptive Republican U.S. Senate nominee Adam Laxalt will politely explain to the sheriffs and their supporters why they’re wrong. Maybe not.

Another Republican gubernatorial candidate, January 6 alumnus Joey Gilbert, is an inveterate peddler of bat guano nonsense. But when you see Lombardo and Lee campaigning to stop nonexistent voter fraud, or if you reflect on Adam Laxalt’s enthusiasm for the Big Lie, the line between them and Gilbert — or Donna Cox — looks awfully thin. If there even is one. 

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Hugh Jackson
Hugh Jackson

Hugh Jackson was editor of the Las Vegas Business Press, senior editor at the Las Vegas CityLife weekly newspaper, daily political commentator on the Las Vegas NBC affiliate, and author of the Las Vegas Gleaner political blog. Prior to moving to Las Vegas, he was a reporter and editor at the Casper (Wyoming) Star-Tribune.

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