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Nevada official who sent race-bashing email survives recall effort

October 4, 2011 | 12:00 pm


For months, the talk of rural Nye County, Nev., has been Shirley Matson's emails. Just before her election in November, the Republican county assessor wrote several emails later obtained by the Pahrump Valley Times.

She referred to Latinos as "locusts" and said pregnant Latinas were carrying "anchor babies" -- and those were her more mundane conclusions.

Once elected, Matson emailed the county sheriff with her fears that "Mexican/Latino, non-English speaking" construction workers were building a nearby jail. That led to a public flogging by her fellow Republicans on the County Commission. It also spurred a recall effort by resident Stephanie Lopez, who runs the Facebook profile Positive Pahrump.

The backlash against Matson was striking, given that Pahrump, the county's largest town, had recently been a hotbed of anti-immigrant furor. In 2006, the town board voted to make English the official language of Pahrump and bar residents from flying a foreign flag without a U.S. flag near it. (The ordinance was later rescinded.)

But Nye County has become home in recent years to more Latinos, who make up 14% of residents, and more transplants from urban areas such as Las Vegas. Nevada as a whole has grown more diverse as well. Despite all this, Lopez couldn't drum up enough signatures for her recall effort.

Her group collected 2,556 voter signatures, she announced this week on Facebook, but needed 3,613. "Right is right and wrong is wrong, so I am proud of the fact that the attention of the community has been brought to her negative comments and behavior," Lopez wrote.

As for Matson, she told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that she'd continue to speak out against illegal immigration.

"I am not anti-Hispanic or anyone else! I am just against anyone illegally in our country committing crimes against the U.S. citizens," she told the paper in an email.


As it diversifies, Nevada shifts its tone

Minorities helped fuel Harry Reid's victory

Latino Republican walking a tightrope in Nevada race

-- Ashley Powers in Las Vegas

Twitter: @ashleypowers

Photo: The Latino population in Nevada, as elsewhere in the U.S., has soared in the last decade. Credit: Jeff Scheid / Las Vegas Review-Journal