If you thought Gibbons-Titus battle couldn’t get any nastier, guess again | NevadaAppeal.com

If you thought Gibbons-Titus battle couldn’t get any nastier, guess again

John L. Smith

If you like your politics neat and well-mannered, it’s time to take up yoga and learn to meditate, get in touch with your inner Phil Donahue and enroll in a basket-weaving course.

In other words, it’s time to stop watching the campaign for governor.

It’s about to go negative. Make that very negative.

It’s not as if Democrat Dina Titus and Republican Jim Gibbons have been shy about taking rhetorical shots at each other’s chins. In each of their debates, they have proven more than willing to mix it up, and each scored points with judges from their prospective parties.

“Back-benching Bush’s boy!” Titus called.

“Lefty-liberal tax-and-spender!” Gibbons responded.

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And so it went until that rainy Friday the 13th, when Gibbons found himself accused of battery by cocktail waitress Chrissy Mazzeo. Although Mazzeo later withdrew her complaint, she has since hired attorney Richard Wright to represent her.

Goodbye Marquess of Queensberry, hello Ultimate Fighting Championship.

By hiring Wright, Mazzeo will undoubtedly focus part of the spotlight on his law partner, Karen Winckler, an unabashed Titus supporter. That’s sure to fuel conspiracy theories about Gibbons being set up at the McCormick & Schmick’s Seafood Restaurant, but I wouldn’t chase those shadows too far: They will lead back to Gibbons’ questionable judgment on the night in question.

“Karen did not even know I had taken the thing until after I did,” Wright said Tuesday, adding that he accepted the case from California attorney Harold Collins and has had no contact with the Titus camp.

The Gibbons grope-a-dope has even been grist for a Jay Leno monologue. “A congressman trying to have sex with an adult woman,” Leno cracked to a national audience. “This is the best news the Republicans have had in years.”

Just when Republican political allies must have thought the worst was over, information has surfaced that raises the issue of whether Gibbons and his wife, Dawn, employed an illegal immigrant as a maid and nanny. They did, but the story is much more complex than that.

The Gibbonses also tried to help the woman, Peru native Martha Patricia Pastor-Sandoval, gain legal status. She entered the country through Tijuana in the trunk of a car and earned $800 a month working for the Gibbons family from July 1987 through the early 1990s.

When she later approached them and, according to a press report, asked them to help her fudge on some immigration paperwork, they called the police and accused her of extortion. The investigation went nowhere, and the housekeeper is now legally in the United States.

The story is ancient. But the irony of a candidate who is staunchly opposed to illegal immigration using an illegal immigrant as a housekeeper and nanny is too juicy to pass up in a campaign that gets bloodier by the day.

Gibbons has a pair of black eyes, but he’s not cowering in the corner.

In fact, I’ll speculate that if Mazzeo has ever accused boyfriends or others of the activity of which she recently accused Gibbons, she can expect it to surface. If she’s ever had run-ins with the law, that’s also fair game. If old girlfriends are willing to say she’s a gold digger, then that also will splash on her reputation.

If she has left her adversaries any ammunition, the accuser can expect to feel a lot like the accused.

What can Titus expect?

No one is going to catch her playing footsie in a local lounge, but the college professor and state senator has been on the UNLV payroll so long that double-dipping accusations are bound to ring anew. Henderson Mayor Jim Gibson’s camp was thwarted in its information request in the Democratic primary, and to date the state Republican Party has also been unsuccessful in obtaining a variety of materials ranging from her course instruction to her class attendance.

If Titus has received pay at times she hasn’t been on campus, she can expect to hear a lot about it before Election Day.

So much for a neat and well-mannered finish to the political season.

At the rate they’re going, we’ll be watching Titus and Gibbons on the next Ultimate Fighting Championship card.

• John L. Smith’s column, reprinted from the Las Vegas Review-Journal, appears on Thursdays on the Appeal’s Opinion page. E-mail him at smith@reviewjournal.com or call (702) 383-0295.