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Gilbert drops election appeal, backs Lombardo

Updated October 4, 2022 - 6:13 pm

Former Republican gubernatorial candidate Joey Gilbert, who came in second in the June primary and lost a lawsuit over the results, on Tuesday announced he was backing the winner, Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo.

“When I decided to run for governor, it was because Nevada needed a fighter,” Gilbert said. “Nevada needed someone who would fight for our kids, fight for our families, fight for election integrity, our medical freedom and privacy — and fight for our God-given rights. While I am continuing that fight every single day for the people of Nevada as an attorney, father and leader, it’s time we come together and fight to get (Gov.) Steve Sisolak out of office.”

Gilbert’s statement — which does not contain an admission he lost the June 14 primary to Lombardo 38 percent to 27 percent — says he’s supporting all Republicans running in November. In a separate interview published Tuesday in the Reno Gazette-Journal, Gilbert said he wishes he could have continued his fight against the election results. But he decided against it, he told the newspaper, because he realized his efforts were hurting Lombardo’s campaign.

“While Sheriff Lombardo and I don’t agree on everything — he’s better than Steve Sisolak,” Gilbert said in his Tuesday statement. “Sheriff Lombardo is committed to ending the violence, listening to parents and bringing excellence to our schools, restoring order from Sisolak’s soft-on-crime policies, and building a stronger and better economy in our State.”

Lombardo included comments of his own in Gilbert’s statement: “Joey was a champion as a boxer and is a tireless advocate for what he believes in,” Lombardo said. “He ran a passionate, hard-fought campaign and I appreciate his willingness to speak up. Joey is right that our fight now is to remove Steve Sisolak and his destructive policies.”

Sisolak’s campaign said in a statement Lombardo is still struggling to unify Republicans around his campaign.

“Joe Lombardo is struggling to coalesce the Republican base after his abysmal showing in the primary, failing to get even 40 percent of the vote and coming in third in several rural, red counties,” said Sisolak campaign spokeswoman Natalie Gould. “After distancing himself from Trump during the gubernatorial debate just to later publicly backtrack, Lombardo’s handlers are rushing to do damage control and fix his base problem with just a month left until election day. But it’ll take more than a lukewarm endorsement from Joey Gilbert to get him across the finish line.”

Gilbert’s lawsuit contended the election results were mathematically inaccurate and claimed that he’d actually won the primary, not Lombardo. A Carson City judge dismissed the action, citing a “clear absence” of evidence to support his allegations. Gilbert was later sanctioned by that judge for filing a frivolous action, and Lombardo won $88,000 in legal fees.

But Gilbert’s refusal initially to concede the race and the subsequent lawsuit extended the heated primary contest between Lombardo, who was endorsed by former President Donald Trump, and Gilbert, who was endorsed by the Nevada Republican Party. It led to questions about whether Lombardo was able to unify Republicans for his general election contest against Sisolak.

“The elephant in the room is that I came out of a very contested primary race. We had a lot of qualified guys running for the Republican ticket,” Lombardo said at the annual Basque Fry event in August. “It’s very important that we have a diversified crowd out here today, and no matter who you voted for, we’ve got to get past that.”

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

Contact Steve Sebelius at SSebelius@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0253. Follow @SteveSebelius on Twitter.

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