Sheriff's race heats up with third major player

It’s looking like a three-person fight to be Clark County sheriff next year.

Las Vegas police Assistant Sheriff Joseph Lombardo told multiple people he will enter the race for sheriff, the Review-Journal has learned. He also retained longtime Nevada political consultant Jim Ferrence, who notably ran Oscar Goodman’s mayoral campaigns and several Clark County commissioners’ campaigns.

Lombardo likely won’t make a public announcement about his candidacy immediately. He’s been evaluating a bid since August, when Sheriff Doug Gillespie surprised everyone by announcing he wouldn’t seek a third term.

“Joe is completing his due diligence and will make an official announcement regarding his candidacy for Sheriff in the next few weeks,” Ferrence wrote in a statement on Lombardo’s behalf.

Lombardo’s decision was highly anticipated by interested parties inside and outside the department. If Lombardo decided not to run, other officers would have come forward to run against Capt. Larry Burns and former Assistant Sheriff Ted Moody.

Former sheriff Bill Young also said he would consider a run if Lombardo opted out.

Young said Friday he was 100 percent behind Lombardo.

“He would make a great sheriff,” he said.

Lombardo joined the department in 1988 and was promoted to assistant sheriff in 2011. He is Gillespie’s choice to replace him, according to insiders, although Gillespie hasn’t yet publicly endorsed a candidate.

This race could be unique for the department, in which an outgoing sheriff has typically hand-picked a successor by securing campaign money, endorsements and general support for his replacement.

A department outsider has never been elected, and few experienced candidates within the agency generally challenge the heir apparent.

But this race could be different. Burns and Moody both have extensive experience at the Metropolitan Police Department with resumes and support to take on Lombardo.

Burns, 55, is the bureau commander at Bolden Area Command and has been with the department since 1986.

Although Burns doesn’t have top executive experience at the department, he is expected to have union support from the Las Vegas Police Protective Association and is generally favored by patrol officers.

Burns will kick-off his campaign at an 11 a.m. event Saturday at Police Memorial Park, near Cheyenne Avenue and Grand Canyon Drive in the west valley.

Former Sheriff Jerry Keller is supporting Burns and will introduce him.

Moody made headlines earlier this year when he abruptly retired in July after Gillespie’s decision not to follow the Use of Force Review Board’s recommendation to fire officer Jacquar Roston, who shot an unarmed man in November.

That board, which reviews incidents where officers use deadly force, was previously considered a rubber-stamp process that didn’t hold officers accountable, according to a 2011 Review-Journal investigation and a Department of Justice review.

Moody, who was tasked with revamping the board, told the newspaper that Gillespie’s choice to override the board’s decision undermined its integrity.

Soon after his retirement, Moody announced his intention to run for Gillespie’s job. He has been supported by some local civil rights groups who question the department’s sincerity in overhauling its use-of-force policies.

Three others have announced their candidacy: retired Las Vegas police officer and Las Vegas constable Robert “Bobby G” Gronauer, retired Las Vegas traffic officer Tony McCleery and outspoken department critic Detective Gordon Martines.

Officer Laurie Bisch, who ran against Gillespie in 2010, was one of the first candidates to announce a bid this time. But things have changed.

On Friday Bisch said she will instead support Burns, her captain at Bolden Area Command.

“Bisch and Burns are teaming up,” she wrote in a text message.

Martines is not considered a serious candidate. He ran for sheriff in 2010 but spent little to promote his campaign and finished behind Gillespie and Bisch, receiving just 4 percent of the primary vote.

McCleery told the Review-Journal he hoped the voters would support Burns if they didn’t vote for him.

Contact reporter Mike Blasky at mblasky@reviewjournal.com. Follow @blasky on Twitter.