Commissioner Accuses Forum Attendee of Being Plant for Opponent

Last week’s forum for Washoe Board of County Commission candidates generated a wide-ranging discussion, but a comment by a candidate after the event has since drawn some controversy.

Washoe County Commissioner Kitty Jung.

Incumbent Commissioner Kitty Jung was asked at the forum about a comment she made at a progressive leadership summit regarding suicide.

Challenging Jung at the forum was University of Nevada, Reno student Emily Spalding, whom Jung accused after the event of being “a plant” for her opponent, Austin Grush.

“I brought up something that Kitty Jung had said at the progressive summit about the 23andMe test and that there would be a lot of suicides from the results,” Spalding told Don Dike-Anukam (ThisisReno’s conservative columnist) after the forum.

The statement was referring to 23andMe’s genetic and DNA testing, which shows most people are of mixed race.

“There’s nobody who’s 100-percent anything,” Jung explained, implying that if white supremicists found out they are not purely white, they would commit suicide after doing a 23andMe test.

Spalding said suicide is not a joke.

“She seemed more defensive than empathetic,” she added.

“You’re not motivated by some external factor?” Dike-Anukam asked Spalding.

“I needed to say it,” she responded. “It’s been something that’s been on my mind since the progressive summit, and I needed her to know that it was inappropriate and that she shouldn’t be making jokes about it.”

Jung, however, said the question “felt like an ambush, but I can’t say for sure. It felt like a gotcha question.

“That’s a campaign technique,” she reiterated. “I stand by what I said. I didn’t mean to make light of suicide.”

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Austin Grush, candidate for district 3.
Austin Grush, candidate for district 3.

Jung’s opponent, Austin Grush, said he doesn’t know Spalding, has never met her, and that she was not asking the question on behalf of his campaign.

Spalding said Jung should do her research on suicide before she talks.

Jung apologized for the comment and said she did not mean to make light of suicide.

“I was trying to be flippant,” Jung explained. “There is no pure race and no superior race.”

Don Dike-Anukam contributed to this story.

Bob Conrad
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Bob Conrad is co-founder of ThisisReno. He manages ThisisReno and Conrad Communications, LLC, his marketing communications consulting company. He also works part time for the University of Nevada, Reno.


  1. I am not in Mrs. Jung’s district, but both her and Mr. Vaughn Hartung have been very helpful and always accessible to me. Just last week, I called Mrs. Jung and reached her while she was in the middle of doing some household chores. Through what sounded like the clatter of pots and dishes, she addressed a problem we were having with local government agencies passing the buck on mosquito control. Earlier this year, I could not reach, My District’s Commissioner, Mr. Lucey (I can only reach him by email and there is generally a delay in getting a response) so I called Mrs. Jung and she cheerfully answered my question and suggested some ideas. I wish that everyone on the County Commission, as well as all of our elected officials were as accessible, thoughtful, responsive and effective, as Mrs. Jung. (And no, I am not a planted person FOR her campaign; just someone who is very pleased with her eagerness to help me when I need a hand).

  2. Hard to disagree with Kittyon this. Feels like a manufactured bit of controvery. Suicide is no joke, but this was not given with malicious intent.

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