By Judson Berger
Published October 24, 2018
The midterm elections are ruining Thanksgiving – at least for a handful of families bitterly divided over relatives running for office.
In a startling trend, several candidates this year have been hit with attack ads and op-eds featuring siblings and other family members. The latest political family feud to go public involves the Laxalt family, of which Adam Laxalt is running as the Republican nominee for Nevada governor.
A dozen relatives essentially called him a big phony, in a scathing op-ed published this week in the Reno Gazette-Journal.
“[W]e feel compelled to speak publicly about why we believe that Adam Laxalt is the wrong choice for Nevada’s governorship,” they wrote, out of a proclaimed interest to “protect our family name from being leveraged and exploited by Adam Laxalt.”
The op-ed went on to question his Nevada-roots narrative: “The simple fact is that while he may have been born in Reno, he left as an infant and was raised on the East Coast, 3,000 miles away, in Washington, D.C., and moved here only in 2013, only one year later launching his political career. Aside from the occasional short visit, Adam never knew the state or its people.”
They even mocked the candidate’s “Basque Fry” fundraiser: “This event perfectly captures the Adam Laxalt candidacy: the phoniness of the setting and costumes, the pretense of folksiness used as a prop for Washington power players …”
When you’re dealing with family, some things just can’t be unsaid.
Within hours, the op-ed generated a rebuttal from 22 different relatives, who slammed the original column as a “vicious and entirely baseless attack.”
“Not only do the authors get basic facts wrong about Adam’s history in Nevada, they also completely misrepresent his service to our state and our country,” they wrote. “The truth is that Adam moved back to Nevada in 2011 after his military service had concluded, and in 2014, having never run for public office before, he decided to enter the attorney general’s race. … The fact is that this was a purely political hit piece by partisan Democrats, many of whom aren’t even registered to vote in Nevada.”
Asked for comment, the Laxalt campaign referred Fox News to the rebuttal op-ed.
Laxalt, the state attorney general, is running against businessman and Democrat Steve Sisolak, in a contest Fox News rates a "toss-up."
The deeply personal turn in the Nevada campaign, in a sense, typifies how politics has become a ubiquitous and at-times corrosive force in everyday life – dividing classrooms, workplaces and families.
And the Laxalt family is hardly the only one bracing for some awkward reunions in the future.
Six of Arizona Republican Rep. Paul Gosar’s siblings starred in a brutal ad in September urging residents to “go to vote Paul out.”
“I think my brother has traded a lot of the values we had at our kitchen table,” one sibling said in the ad.
The siblings endorsed Democrat David Brill for Congress and appeared in other videos uploaded to the rival's YouTube page.
Gosar, responding on Twitter, chalked up their attack to their hatred of President Trump.
"You can’t pick your family. We all have crazy aunts and relatives etc and my family is no different. I hope they find peace in their hearts and let go all the hate. To the six angry Democrat Gosars—see you at Mom and Dad’s house!" he tweeted.
Just as Gosar was sparring with his relatives, the race to replace retiring Rep. Paul Ryan in Wisconsin featured brother turning against brother.
At the time, a Republican group released an attack ad against Democratic candidate Randy Bryce, starring James Bryce. In the ad, James Bryce discussed his brother Randy’s criminal record and past comments about police officers.
James Bryce, a police officer himself, lamented “cop-hating rhetoric” and said, “When people refer to police officers as terrorists – that hits a little close to home.”
As James Bryce spoke, the video showed a 2012 tweet from Randy that linked to an article regarding arrests of demonstrators in the U.S. Capitol. In his tweet, Randy wrote, “When police become the terrorists…”
“I don’t think people want to be represented by someone who’s shown contempt for those in law enforcement. That’s one of the many reasons why I’m voting for [Republican] Bryan Steil for Congress,” he said.
The ad was released by the Congressional Leadership Fund (CLF), a super PAC with ties to Ryan, the retiring House speaker.
David Keith, Randy’s campaign manager, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel the ad showed “Republicans are very scared because they know that this seat is prime for the taking, and Randy Bryce is in a unique position to win it.”
Fox News’ Kathleen Joyce and Kaitlyn Schallhorn contributed to this report.