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Sisolak says campaign against Lombardo would be ‘spirited’

Updated June 11, 2021 - 5:50 pm

Digging into fresh dirt with a golden shovel. Cutting a silk ribbon with oversized scissors. Getting blasted by a champagne-wielding billionaire on a Las Vegas pool deck.

These are the duties of a governor, at least in this state. Although the ground was broken and ribbon cut long ago at Virgin Hotels Las Vegas, Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak was sprayed with champagne by Richard Branson to culminate a morning of activity at the resort. The celebration included a series of speeches and even a yoga-wellness session at Élia Beach Club, after which Branson hit the switch at the DJ booth to launch the Rolling Stones’ “Start Me Up.”

The champagne soak was the only blasting of Sisolak on this day. Both Branson and Richard “Boz” Bosworth, president and CEO of the resort’s ownership group, JC Hospitality, praised Sisolak for assigning the construction industry as essential workers through the pandemic.

Branson also stepped in to endorse vaccinations, after which Sisolak said, “I need you to do a PSA for vaccinations.”

The event had the feel of a campaign event. Following the festivities and on a walk to his SUV, Sisolak spoke a bit about the upcoming campaign.

I’d mentioned seeing a potential political rival of Sisolak’s, Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo, whom I’d run into at the opening of Siegel’s Bagelmania on Commercial Center Drive a couple weeks ago (Lombardo has a “Bagelwich” named for him; Sisolak does not).

Lombardo has announced he’ll run for governor as a Republican. Former Sen. Dean Heller is reported to be building toward a run, too. Sisolak, a Democrat, had praised Lombardo’s response to the Oct. 1 shooting, including at such events as the Camelot gala at Opportunity Village in November 2017.

Lombardo, in attendance, was entering a re-election campaign. Sisolak told the crowd of dignitaries, “You’re not going to find a better sheriff in the United States than that gentleman right there,” the governor said, pointing to Lombardo at his table. “That he even has to run for re-election is a travesty, as far as I’m concerned. Joe, you should be sheriff as long as you want to be sheriff.”

Lombardo now wants Sisolak’s job. Politics can be a complicated business.

“Joe and I have been close friends for years. One October really brought us closer together,” Sisolak said. “But, look, he decided to run, and it’s a decision he makes. I’m looking forward to an enthusiastic, spirited campaign and we’ll get on with it.”

Sisolak is aware Lombardo won’t be the only Republican zeroing in on the statehouse.

“We’ll have a primary, probably,” Sisolak said. “We’ll see who comes out of it, but I’m ready.”

That’s entertainment

I asked Sisolak if, in retrospect, he would have handled the state’s reopening any differently. I noted that entertainment professionals had been frustrated at the absence of COVID directives specific to their industry. That community complained that showrooms, arenas and theaters were listed under the general mass-gathering umbrella, along with pool halls, golf courses, movie theaters and the like.

“It’s tough to second-guess directives, it’s easy to play Monday-morning quarterback,” Sisolak said. “We relied on scientific and medical data that we had at the time. We’ve learned a lot more since we’ve gotten this far into the pandemic.

“If you remember, at the beginning, we had people wipe off their cardboard boxes. Wipe off their mail. Had we known then what we know now, we might have adjusted some things, but my primary concern was to protect people. Now, the jobs are coming back.”

Aguilera’s return

Christina Aguilera performed about a 30-minute set to help break in the The Theater at Virgin Hotels. Mix Master Mike and Flo Rida preceded her to the stage, with introductions from Branson and Mark Shunock, both still bubbling from the Golden Knights’ victory over the Colorado Avalanche earlier in the evening.

Branson cranked the T-Mobile Arena siren (repaired after Wayne Newton snapped the handle last Sunday), and said he was an effective mascot for the team. “I’ll be in Vegas every week to cheer them on!”

The Theater’s vibe was not detectably different from venue’s days as The Joint, which is actually a good thing. The Joint just needed to be cleaned, the scarred wood replaced and new furniture hauled in. That has happened, especially in the VIP areas, at The Theater.

The venue seemed about two-thirds capacity, based on the GA floor audience and those seated upstairs. Aguilera was obviously thrilled to be back (and her return to her Zappos Theater residency is in the offing), playing a sampler set of about 30 minutes.

It wasn’t a true, full-concert experience (and wasn’t intended to be), but the old Joint should be a major player on the Vegas residency scene. We hear reliably that Journey is coming in for six dates in December, and that should be a very Joint-style experience.

Shecky Branson

Branson mentioned the first convention to be held in Vegas in the pandemic reopening.

“I’ve seen the convention in Las Vegas is the concrete convention,” Branson said in the morning press conference. “I’m British, I’ve seen a lot of Mafia films about Las Vegas. I’m wondering, is there any connection? I won’t probe any further.”

Never thought of that, actually. But Carrot Top has an annual joke about the convention: “Man, that’s a hard crowd.”

John Katsilometes’ column runs daily in the A section. His “PodKats!” podcast can be found at reviewjournal.com/podcasts. Contact him at jkatsilometes@reviewjournal.com. Follow @johnnykats on Twitter, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.

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