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Nevada's Gov. Jim Gibbons denies 'love notes,' seeks Obama sit-down

April 8, 2009 |  9:17 am

The Welcome to Las Vegas sign

They say that what happens in Las Vegas stays in Las Vegas.

But when you're the governor of Nevada and you're in the middle of a nasty divorce, um, maybe not.

Gov. Jim Gibbons, a Republican who is up for reelection next year, has had a rough few months.

Chrissy Mazzeo, a former cocktail waitress, announced she was suing Gibbons for allegedly assaulting her in a Las Vegas parking lot.

Then the state's Senate Finance Committee heard testimony that the governor was padding salaries for his staff while asking school teachers and state employees to tighten their belts and take a 6% pay cut starting July 1 to help close Nevada's budget deficit.

Now, in court papers unsealed yesterday, the governor's wife Dawn Gibbons accuses him in their divorce case of having extramarital affairs with a former Playboy magazine model and another woman to whom he sent more than 860 test messages on his state cellphone.

The governor, who reimbursed the state $130 for the text messages, denied that they were "love notes."

Meanwhile his soon-to-be-ex said that her husband's explanation that he was consulting on matters related to state government "is false and is laughable."

Two prominent members of Gibbons' own party -- former state Sen. Joe Heck and North Las Vegas Mayor Mike Montandon -- have already expressed interest in challenging him for the job.

But Gibbons, pushing renewable energy and casting himself as a fiscal conservative who has managed to balance the budget without raising taxes, told a Reno radio station recently that he "absolutely" plans to seek reelection to a second term next year.

And yesterday he issued a challenge to President Obama, who is scheduled to appear in Las Vegas in May for a political fundraiser. Noting the president's recent remark that Wall Street executives who take government money should not expect to go to Las Vegas on junkets, Gibbons called for a meeting.

"I think a face-to-face meeting between the President, myself, and Nevada business leaders would do a lot to help overcome the perception that President Obama finds visiting Las Vegas somehow offensive,” Gibbons said. “If President Obama can come to Las Vegas to ask for political campaign cash, he can certainly take some time to explore helping the people who live and work here, we are all Americans.”

No word yet from the White House.

-- Johanna Neuman

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Photo credit: Jae C. Hong/Associated Press