The ‘Other Woman’

The governor’s one-time close friend tells her side of an affair that never was

Photo By Dana Nöllsch

Confession: I’ve been intimate with only two men in my life: my first boyfriend, whom I met at 16 and stayed with until 26; my husband, whom I married at 29, and have four children with.

For my generation, I’m fairly much a prude.

How is it, then, that for the past two years I’ve been portrayed in the media as “the other woman”? Mistress of the governor? Jezebel responsible for his marital breakup—one so nasty it’s made international headlines?

People magazine snickered about Gov. Jim Gibbons filing for divorce on grounds of incompatibility—moving out of the Governor’s Mansion in Carson City and demanding his wife vacate: “In legal documents, Dawn Gibbons replied to her husband’s move-out order with fury: She is described as ‘a castaway wife’ jilted by a husband who had ‘succumbed to the wiles’ of another woman—reportedly, the wife of a Reno podiatrist. ‘Lust is the real villain here,’ said her court documents.”

A Reno Magazine profile of Dawn Gibbons said: “Despite rumors of other women, the first lady says it’s his relationship with Karrasch that has been most hurtful to her.”

Google my name; you’ll get 20,000-plus hits. Many of the pages make light of what might be termed the Texting Scandal. Actually, “scandal” is too strong a word for what actually happened. Gov. Gibbons and I exchanged 867 messages on his state-owned cell phone over six weeks in 2007. The tab—which he reimbursed: a whopping $130. Less than a first lady’s pair of shoes.

Thanks to a report by the Reno Gazette-Journal, news about the texts zoomed around cyberspace. At you’ll find a picture of Jim and the headline: “I DID NOT HAVE TEXT WITH THAT WOMAN.”

Cute, huh?

Through all the media gossip, I’ve mostly kept mum. The governor repeatedly told the truth: We were just close friends. The most I’ve said publicly were responses to questions from Reno Magazine. I asserted there was nothing unseemly about the governor—on the date he’d filed for divorce in 2008—having attended a play my daughter performed in at her high school, since Jim was “like an uncle to my kids.” I said there was nothing inappropriate about my having been a guest at the Governor’s Mansion at his 2008 New Year’s Eve party, or, after his wife had moved into an apartment behind the mansion, at a May 2009 graduation party for a friend’s children. Our relationship was platonic.

I told the magazine’s writer: “I’ve been alone with him, and if he wanted to take advantage, he had opportunity. But he sees me as a friend, best friend. I’m more like a sister.” And I explained Dawn’s attacks were triggered by jealousy: “I am an excellent wife and mother, and I was always a great friend to her.”

A friend, that is, until she shunned me during his first run for Congress in 1996.

What about the texting? I explained they were related to Jim’s work: “He thinks I’m smart. I’m not a dummy, and he wanted advice on things like personnel issues.”

I know that sounds boring—that someone in high office would seek counsel from a friend outside government’s bubble.

Compared to fiction, truth often is.

Until now, I’ve avoided telling my side of the affair that never was. I thought the intrigue would eventually blow over. I expected to wake up and find myself yesterday’s news.

I was wrong. On Feb. 22, a television camera caught me at Reno-Tahoe International Airport. I’d returned from Washington, D.C., where I’d attended a White House dinner and met the president.

My dinner invitation came from Jim Gibbons, attending as part of the National Governors Association Winter Meeting. My children convinced me the dinner would be too exciting to pass up. Jim and I didn’t share a room. We returned to Reno on the same plane. After we disembarked, there awaited a reporter and cameraman from Las Vegas’ KLAS.

I ducked into a restroom. Jim—fatigued after the grueling conference and flight—couldn’t avoid the reporter:

“Did you go with anyone?”

“Well, what’s it to you? Yeah, I went with security.”

He denied I’d accompanied him.

The next day, Jim sent a clarifying email to the news team admitting I’d joined him, but not at state expense.

Photo By Dana Nöllsch

Predictably, websites filled with photos of me at the dinner, posing with Jim and other governors. ran: “kathy karrasch pictures, lover of nevada governor.”

But I’m hoping my popularity as an object for sleazy posts will soon wane. You’re now going to get the veracious version of my friendship with Jim Gibbons.

I first met Jim in early 1993. I was managing my husband’s medical office. The state taxation department was seeking $32,000 in sales taxes on orthotics. Medicinal items are exempt from sales tax, but tax officials claimed orthotics—inserts for people with foot problems—were not medicinal.

My family’s lawyer suggested I call my assemblyman to introduce a bill exempting orthotics. I learned my assemblyman was Jim Gibbons. He answered his phone. I explained the issue. He invited me down. I showed him the law about medicinal exemptions. He agreed with me about orthotics.

I testified in front of the taxation committee. Unfortunately, Jim’s bill died.

The next year, 1994, I ran into him and Dawn at a Reno restaurant. He was readying a run for governor against incumbent Bob Miller. Jim introduced Dawn to me. She asked me to help with the campaign.

My duties became not just walking precincts, but accompanying Dawn to events, talking up Jim’s candidacy. Our families discovered another connection. My son C.J. attended the same pre-school as Jimmy Jr. While Jim and Dawn were on the campaign trail, Jimmy stayed at our house. Our families grew closer. After Dawn had foot surgery, I brought dinners over. We watched Little League together.

In 1996, when Jim was running for the U.S. House, he’d be out of town trying to reach his wife by phone. Sometimes, tracking her down, he’d call me. We’d exchange small talk. One of Dawn’s friends observed that and started a catty rumor. Dawn suddenly cooled on me.

At first, I didn’t understand. I finally asked Jim. He said, “Kathy, I believe she’s jealous of you. You’re married to a doctor, and she thinks you have a lot of money.”

Jim won the congressional seat. Every now and then he’d phone me to talk legislation. He asked my opinion on whether an underage girl should be allowed to obtain an abortion in a different state without parental notification. I’d give my thoughts then ask, “What is your opinion? How are you going to vote?”

Our relationship remained entirely platonic. He was always kind to my kids. He knew my son Kyle liked guns and gave him a .22 rifle. One Christmas he came over and regaled my husband and children with war stories.

My husband, Craig, had no concerns about Jim until the day in 1997 when Dawn called him claiming Jim and I were having an affair. My husband said, “No she’s not. She’s too busy with our kids.”

Was it wrong for me to continue my friendship with Jim? It’s hard for me to turn my back on a friend. As a woman, I sensed a level of infatuation from him, but it was never worrisome. He never made a move.

My own marriage, though, was stagnant.

I’d met Craig in 1985 when I was 26, a secretary for a prominent Reno lawyer. I went to see a podiatrist to treat a bunion. He turned out to be a tall, brown-haired, dark-eyed, charismatic man who was obviously attracted to me: a 5-foot-9, brown-eyed brunette with hair falling past her waist.

Dr. Karrasch, then 34, asked me to lunch. His wife had left him three weeks before, taking their three children. He was devastated. I became his shoulder to cry on. Three years later we married. C.J. was born two years after that. Another son, daughter and son followed. But our marriage wasn’t happy. We weren’t connected. He was devoted to work. I was devoted to family. My children became my life.

In summer 2006, after deep soul searching, I moved out of the house. By this time, I’d met a kind, nurturing man who—although we were not physically involved—became a sounding board. He was divorced and in the entertainment industry.

I developed feelings for him. I confided as much to Jim Gibbons, with whom I still chatted on the phone. He’d won the 2006 gubernatorial race. Initially, he gave no reaction to my news. Then, to my surprise, he asked me to dinner.

He barely touched his meal. “What’s really on your mind?” I asked.

“I need to tell you how I really feel about you,” he finally said—and confessed he was head over heels.

I didn’t want to hurt him. But when he walked me to my car, I said I was falling for another man.

Jim didn’t pursue me, but we stayed in touch. We discovered texting. One time, scrolling through my contact list, I accidentally texted his office. We continued using that number for typical text talk: how our day was going, how my dog was doing.

One night he was in a foul mood. He told me that a scheduling error sent Dawn and him an hour early to a function at the University of Nevada, Reno. He said she’d thrown a tantrum; he’d asked his security detail to escort her home.

Gov. Jim Gibbons, left, at a Reno debate last month and Dawn Gibbons at a 2008 political function in Reno.

Around midnight he texted me. My ringer was on. I replied. Over the next two hours we texted “k’s,” and “I’m so tired, can’t see the keys,” and the like. They added up to 91 texts. Nary a one was a “sext.” (Hardly the stuff for tabloids, huh?)

As it happened, my feelings for Jim never grew warmer than those for a friend who is kind and smart, not even after my relationship with the other man ended in October 2008.

As Jim’s marriage fell apart, I asked if I was the reason. He said no.

He was simply sick of what he described as Dawn’s emotional abuse.

Jim’s divorce is not final, but a settlement was reached in December. My own marriage is ending. At 51, I’m turning the page. My husband and I are amicably arranging an uncontested divorce.

As for Jim and me? In April he emailed, saying we could no longer be friends. I understood. I was never going to have a romantic relationship with him.

I feel sad I can’t call him anymore. And I hope, in the bottom of my heart, that somebody will come into his life. He deserves companionship. He’s a good person.

So I’ve written this story to set the record straight—not only for myself, but also for my family. I hope the facts will counter character assassinations of Jim. Politics is a nasty business. Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington listed him among its top 11 worst governors. They cited, in part, assault charges (though dismissed) by a cocktail waitress in Las Vegas who claimed he’d hit on her in October 2006 after she joined him and campaign staffers at a bar and then, while escorting her to her car, pushed her against a wall. (Funny how this happened right before the general election.)

Now Jim’s in a reelection campaign. I wish him the best. You may disagree with his politics. He opposes gay marriage, supports school prayer, craves small government. In the 2009 legislative session, he set a record with more than 40 vetoes. He’s set up a fund so Nevada can sue the federal government to fight the health-care reform law.

Hate his stances? Please respect him as an honorable man. He served during Vietnam. With the Nevada Air Guard, he earned a Distinguished Flying Cross during the Gulf War. He’s been productive, working as a lawyer, commercial pilot and geologist. He was a two-term Nevada assemblyman, five-term U.S. congressman.

And he’s no cheater. Jim says he’s been intimate with—I believe, knowing him 17 years—three lovers. Two were his first and second wives. The third was a fling between marriages. Can the same be said for most politicians?

Americans are cynical about men in office. Eliot Spitzer resigned as New York’s governor after his patronizing of prostitutes was exposed. South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford secretly traveled to Argentina for a tryst. Nevada U.S. Sen. John Ensign philandered with an aide’s wife.

Jim Gibbons sleeps alone in a 23-room mansion. “Suave” he is not. “Chivalrous” he is. His blue-collar father had his sons stand when their mother came to the table. Jim opens doors for women. He’s never sexually strayed, even if Dawn Gibbons says he did.

The Reno Magazine story reported she “is sure her husband was unfaithful.” Not only with me, but perhaps two other women. But I was Dawn’s primary target. Her quote about me: “It seemed like she showed up everywhere we were all the time.” (She forgot she invited me to those events!)

Dawn scapegoated me for her failing marriage—and to portray herself as a victim who’d sacrificed selflessly to advance her husband’s career. Truth is, she’s an opportunistic bitch.

While Jim sought to keep the divorce proceedings private, her lawyer, Cal Dunlap, shared his court motion with a reporter, saying she was entitled to public proceedings where “she can fix blame where it belongs, on the shoulders of the woman who has, for years, stalked the man who could give her the public persona and prestige that, apparently, she craves.”

What hasn’t been publicized is my deposition, since many of the documents related to the divorce never became public.

Dawn has parlayed her divorce into a budding media career. It started with that gooey piece in Reno Magazine, relating how her dreams of being a first lady crusading for causes were dashed by her marital breakup and banishment to an apartment “not much bigger than a hotel room” behind the Governor’s Mansion. (Why not return to their spacious Reno house?)

“No one cares about the first lady, once you’re not first lady anymore,” she whined. Not, perhaps, until she gets her own talk-radio show. (On Reno’s KBZZ-AM 1270.) The Gazette-Journal article announcing that show began:

“When life gives you lemons, or in Dawn Gibbons’ case, a nasty pending divorce from a man who as recently as Sunday was at an event with a woman Gibbons thinks he has been sleeping with for years, you make radio.”

You make radio? The phrase I would have used is, “you make lemonade—and sell it by the jug to the public.”

So, now I’ve shared my side. A biblical passage says: “The truth shall set you free.” Writing this has been liberating.

It’s up to you to decide whether my words bear the ring of truth. Or whether you’d rather believe the gossip. And someone like Dawn Gibbons.

Editor’s note: Gov. Jim Gibbons, Dawn Gibbons and their representatives declined the opportunity to comment on this story.