Republican gubernatorial candidate Joey Gilbert says Nevada has “plenty of water” as well as “abundant affordable housing,” but should be “building schools without interior hallways.” (Campaign video screengrab)
Policy, politics and progressive commentary
Pugilist turned Reno attorney turned gubernatorial hopeful Joey Gilbert is out to save Nevada from itself, and he’s garnering the support of outsiders to do it. Almost 40% of the campaign contributions he’s reported receiving for his Republican gubernatorial effort are from out-of-state – Florida, Georgia and Texas, among them.
“People see the chance to turn Nevada red,” he said during a phone interview. “They know their red states and basically want to save this nation for Texas and Florida and others.”
Gilbert notes he’s the only one of more than a dozen Republicans in the race who has been touring the nation. “I’ve been speaking on the ReAwaken America tour, and I’ve spoken in Tampa, Florida, in Oklahoma, in Dallas, Texas, and in Utah,” he says of the conservative rallies that have drawn thousands on the remnants of former Pres. Donald Trump’s coattails and feature speakers such as My Pillow founder Mike Lindell, Trump loyalist Roger Stone, and Gen. Mike Flynn, who once called for the U.S. to have one religion. “There’s no doubt in my mind that there’s money coming from outside the state to me.”
Gilbert says while he condemns the violence at the U.S. Capital on Jan. 6, 2020, he doesn’t regret his participation.
“Not a single regret, I was proud to be there as an American and a patriot, standing up for our country and for an election that I did not believe was done fairly,” he says.
Following the 2020 election, Republican Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske’s office conducted a review of allegations lodged by Republicans and found no evidence of widespread voter fraud. That finding echoed those of election officials and state and federal judges in multiple states where defeated former President Donald Trump attempted to overturn results.
At his campaign announcement last summer, Gilbert had a message for the elected officials and others who allowed Trump to lose the presidency, who “sat on your hands and you censored the truth, and you peddled the fear. You’re out.”
Is Nevada Rep. Mark Amodei, a Republican who voted to certifyJoe Biden’s election, among those Gilbert expects to be ousted?
“I have no comment,” Gilbert says. “Mark’s trying to do what he needs to do to obviously move up to a good position in the Congress,”
He scoffs when asked why he didn’t challenge Amodei instead of running for governor. “I’m not trying to be a congressman. Next question.”
Bully on the pulpit?
Like Trump, Gilbert has a reputation for coming out swinging.
“I’m very matter of fact. I’m very transparent. I don’t pull punches,” says the former boxer. “And I’m definitely a counter puncher. You hit me, I’m gonna hit you twice as hard.”
When video surfaced of Gov. Steve Sisolak and his wife being harassed and threatened at a local restaurant, Gilbert wrote on Facebook he couldn’t “think of a more deserving person” for the treatment than Sisolak. “Hell no I do not condemn it,” he wrote. “You earned it Steve. You absolutely earned it.”
He’s notorious for name-calling. In 2015 he deemed then-Assemblywoman Michele Fiore “crazy” for opposing Gov. Brian Sandoval’s margin tax. He later apologized to Fiore, admitting he didn’t understand the tax when he supported it.
“Some business guys explained it to me, that it was on gross receipts,” he says.“That’s kind of where Brian and I separated a little bit.”
He says he was a longtime supporter of Sandoval, now president of University of Nevada Reno, but opposes “the way he’s handled the mandates at the University.”
He’s dubbed Sisolak “King Dingaling” and Dr. Anthony Fauci “a psychopath” and accused him of murder.
The father of a young daughter, he bristles at the notion that he’s a bully.
“I think you know when it’s right, when the glove fits, and I don’t do it all the time,” he says of his aggressive demeanor. “Look, I’m an attorney. So you can try and paint me however you want to paint. When I’m in court, I’m very respectful. In business meetings, I’m respectful. When it’s time to be gubernatorial. I’ll be gubernatorial. But there’s times when people have done things or said things and I’m gonna call a spade a spade. Next question.”
What about the time he said America is becoming “a communist nation”?
“When did I say that?” he asks indignantly, adamant that he’s being misquoted.
“I cannot sit by idly as I watch America turn into a communist nation,” he said in a tweet.
“Of course. I did say that with regards to what’s happening around the country,” he acknowledges, adding that “forcing people into anything – that’s not American.”
His assessment is “based on the mandates. It’s based on people being shut out of the process, from school board hearings to city councils to county commissions. So much has been done in secrecy. So many of these governors have ruled by mandate and by emergency directives which are not laws. It’s been used as a power grab. Basically, it’s a political tool.”
A tool for what purpose?
“We’re paying people to stay home, trying to put them on the government dole, trying to make people dependent on the government,” he says. “That’s a communist nation. Destroying the free market, affecting the supply chain.”
‘Abundant affordable housing’
Home prices in Nevada have increased by close to 30% in the last year, but Gilbert says he doesn’t support requiring developers to build affordable housing units in exchange for the right to build upscale housing.
Inclusionary zoning, he says, ignores “the major causes of inability to afford housing, including poor education, substance abuse, poor parenting, poor work ethics, criminal behavior, and so on.” He says there’s “abundant affordable housing in Nevada…”
In fact, Nevada lacks an estimated 105,000 affordable and low-income units, according to the Nevada Housing Coalition.
Gilbert says he’s not opposed to allowing local governments “to determine a reasonable limit on annual rent increases. But again, letting free market capitalism operate unimpeded by government, would for the most part, correct the problem of landlords trying to rent gouge.”
He supports regressive taxation, which disproportionately affects the poor, and opposes progressive taxation such as a state income tax.
“I believe everyone paying the same percentage of tax is the fairest taxation method we have,” he says. “Punishing high wage earners for being successful, and frequently providing many jobs for others, is one more example of socialistic government overreach, and not a practice that belongs in a free republic.”
Gilbert bemoans “the waste in this country” and “money spent on ridiculous projects that go nowhere.”
“My campaign was told by a top mental health administrator in Washoe County that never in her 30 years with the agency had even one person, homeless or otherwise, been denied immediate mental health services,” Gilbert said. “That means that we’re not even utilizing all of the services we’re funding right now.”
Homelessness in Washoe County increased 875% since 2017, according to statistics reported last year.
Homelessness “is not the result of a lack of funding,” he says. “It’s a lack of willingness on the part of homeless addicts to submit to readily available treatment and programs.“
Law enforcement, he says, is being “prevented from enforcing the law… Faced with a choice of jail or treatment, my experience has shown that the homeless will choose treatment.”
He says if his transition team finds after an audit that more services “are truly needed, then we will absolutely address the need immediately and responsibly without waste or bloat.”
Gilbert says he’s not against giving people “a hand up or a handout once in a while to get back on their feet. But to be on permanent welfare?”
Rancher subsidies OK
However, he is on board with the permanent welfare that subsidizes the nation’s ranchers to the tune of $500 million a year – about $25,000 per rancher – with grazing fees on public lands at a fraction of the cost of private fees.
“Not opposed to that at all,” Gilbert says. “The government is destroying these ranches with water, with drought, the way they manage the water with the supply chain, how they destroy the pricing and try to control the food supply. They need the subsidies right now. Next question.”
As governor, would he take any steps to discourage growth, given the shortage of water, especially in Southern Nevada?
“No, I think there’s plenty of water if we do things the right way,” he says, noting 70% of water in Nevada is used for irrigation. “Number one, I work with our ag partners and help them irrigate more efficiently. Number two, I’d work with those that understand what can be done to bring in water and to create more water. And then number three would be reaching out to other states around us and one of them would be California.”
Gilbert says California is “sucking eight times more water than they should when they could be doing more” by looking at desalination plants.
Does he support public money for private ventures such as Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas?
“I thought it was a great idea. I don’t know that I would have gone to that length to fund them,” he says of the $750 million public subsidy. “They (Las Vegas Raiders) are very well off. But, again, I support anything that we can do for this state to bring in more business and more attractions.”
He says he hasn’t “seen the numbers” on the stadium. “I don’t really agree with just subsidizing or incentivizing anybody to come here for any reason but as long as it pans out and the jobs are provided and the return on an investment is provided, then it makes sense.”
Do companies such as Amazon and Tesla need incentives to do business in Nevada? “Probably not.”
More guns. No CRT.
On Republican hot-button issues, Gilbert said he wants to expand the Second Amendment and approve “constitutional carry,” which allows anyone to carry a handgun, openly or concealed, without a permit.
He also wants to decertify teachers unions and “ban critical race theory.” Critical race theory is an academic concept in higher education, particularly law schools, that explores how racism can become embedded in economic and social systems through laws, regulations and institutional practices.
“You don’t think they are teaching that garbage?” he replied when asked where CRT is being taught in K-12 schools.
“Public schools are places where students should be taught about everything, including slavery, genocide and the Holocaust, and indoctrinated about nothing,” he says, adding he’s opposed to CRT “because it’s a blatant attempt to indoctrinate students with curriculum that numerous national experts have proven to be false, historically inaccurate, racist, and highly partisan.”
Efforts to augment school funding miss the mark, he says. Instead, school districts should privatize “non-instructional services”, cut “administrative bloat” by one-third, and put the displaced staff in the classroom as teachers.
School capital costs could be cut, he says, by “building schools without interior hallways” and eliminating “athletic facilities that benefit a small percentage” of students, and replacing them with “multi-purpose exercise rooms where students and staff could work off their baby fat and reduce the amount of workers compensation claims due to unhealthy lifestyles…”
In 2007, the Nevada Athletic Commission suspended Gilbert from the ring when he tested positive for methamphetamine, amphetamine and steroids. Gilbert says the test result was “fake news.” He says a second test result was positive only for steroids.
“Everything ended up being tossed except for I did accept responsibility for a banned substance being in my system,” he says, noting he accepted a 14-month suspension from boxing. “I wish I would have just accepted responsibility sooner. But I didn’t feel it was fair, until I went through the process.”
An ally from Gilbert’s boxing days, public relations executive Sig Rogich, is supporting his opponent in the Republican primary, Joe Lombardo.
Gilbert says he knew “coming into the game” that Rogich was supporting Lombardo. “It’s business. Nothing personal.”
While Lombardo has been criticized for riding the fence on the kind of hot-button Republican issues that get air time on Fox News and register with Trump supporters, Gilbert has remained on message without assists, he says, from national TV pundits.
“I can’t tell you the last time I watched the national news,” he says.
Does he read newspapers?
“Not really,” he says. “I’m paying attention to issues here.”