Some of the worst wounds in political campaigns are self-inflicted.
I was reminded of that again during the race for Clark County sheriff, where three longtime department veterans and a former Las Vegas constable are jockeying for position in the sprint to the June 10 primary election. Early voting has begun. Time is running short, and there’s no medal for a third-place finish.
Of the top four, Assistant Sheriff Joe Lombardo touts his education and has collected the most contributions. He has the support of several major Strip resort corporations. Recently retired Capt. Larry Burns is respected inside the department and has the endorsement of the Las Vegas Police Protective Association.
Former Constable Bobby “Bobby G.” Gronauer has the most campaign experience. And former Assistant Sheriff Ted Moody, a Marine and three-decade department veteran, has worked hard to define himself as an independent leader without losing his alliances at Metro and in the community.
Moody is a longtime department insider who is running as an outsider — no mean feat.
When Moody in a “Ralston Reports” debate took shots at opponents Lombardo and Burns, one for receiving the largesse of Strip resort operators and the other for his coveted PPA endorsement, he set himself up for some obvious retorts. Did he mean he wouldn’t want campaign checks from large casino operators? Did he mean he didn’t want the endorsement of the police officers’ union?
To intimate such things in private is one thing, but Moody offered some of his views on the subject in a televised debate setting. And such rhetoric certainly qualifies as a self-inflicted wound at a time many voters are still getting to know the candidates and Moody — with neither plenty of campaign cash nor enthusiasm from the rank-and-file officers — can ill afford a mistake.
Not surprisingly, Moody’s views generated a bruising response from PPA President Chris Collins.
In a letter this past week, Collins wrote in part, “Ted Moody, candidate for Sheriff, has accused the Las Vegas Police Protective Association (LVPPA) of making a non-intellectual endorsement of Larry Burns for Clark County Sheriff.
“The LVPPA endorsed Larry Burns for Clark County Sheriff, with a 96% vote of our membership, because he has the ability to instill confidence in the public and to inspire the men and women of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, which is critical in keeping this department successful.”
Collins then dispensed with the political ad and went more negative. Moody had handed him the issue.
“The reasons why we did not endorse Ted Moody begins with his public misrepresentations of the revamping of the Use of Force Board,” Collins wrote. “He told us that his vision for the Use of Force Board was not for disciplinary purposes but to be a way to correct errors through extensive training. Shortly after he expressed those views, Assistant Sheriff Moody recommended an officer for termination through the Use of Force Board, not because termination was warranted, but clearly as a (precursor) to further his political career. The fact that the Sheriff chose not to terminate (the) officer demonstrated he did not have the support of his superiors and that his recommendation was politically motivated.”
Did I say negative? That was nothing compared with what came next. Collins also pulled apart Moody’s criticism of Metro salaries despite enjoying the department’s generous pay and benefit package for so many years.
“Ted Moody also pontificates about how line officers’ salaries and benefits are too rich and must be reduced,” Collins wrote. “Ted Moody clearly did not believe this when he was a Metro employee. ... It does not look like Ted ever turned down any of the raises or benefits that he now says are too rich for the officers. He is making this statement just to attempt to fool the public into voting for him.”
And on Collins went, building the case against trusting candidate Moody.
It’s possible Moody has tapped into a large segment of voters who are dissatisfied with their police department, but surveys suggest otherwise. Maybe Moody can play off the criticism as the embittered rhetoric of a Metro insider.
Once he stops the bleeding, that is.
John L. Smith’s column appears Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Email him at Smith@reviewjournal.com or call 702-383-0295. Follow him on Twitter @jlnevadasmith.