If the general election resembles Tuesday’s primary, it could soon be the Joe Lombardo show at Metro.
But Larry Burns is about to turn up the pressure.
Lombardo, a Las Vegas police assistant sheriff, cruised to a comfortable victory in the nonpartisan Clark County sheriff primary. In November he’ll face Burns, a recently retired Metro captain and a popular choice among rank-and-file officers.
While finishing second, Burns easily beat former Assistant Sheriff Ted Moody, who has been critical of Metro’s administration since he retired from the department last year.
Lombardo, who has the backing of outgoing Sheriff Doug Gillespie and former Sheriff Bill Young, is considered the favorite. Their support gave him an in with the casino industry and helped him raise nearly $1 million, allowing him to purchase a $250,000 TV ad campaign.
“I’m humbled,” Lombardo said. “People heard my message. I believe that my support is showing in the numbers, across the board, and want to thank all the people that supported me through this. But the biggest thing is, we’re only halfway done.”
The Nov. 4 general election may not be as easy. Burns ran a grassroots campaign for the primary but said he’ll match Lombardo’s spending on TV and radio in the five months.
“We played it very pure. … The question was, ‘Could we stay within 10 points of Joe, when he’s outspending us 3-to-1 on television?’ It appears the answer is yes,” Burns said. “The field is narrowed down, and I think that plays to our strengths.”
The final days before the primary were muted in the wake of Sunday’s shooting deaths of Metro officers Alyn Beck, 41, and Igor Soldo, 31. Most candidates suspended their campaigns to honor the fallen officers.
“It was a senseless, cowardly tragedy,” Lombardo said. “We lost two officers.”
“There will be no parties tonight,” said Burns, who will speak at Soldo’s funeral. “Just nothing to celebrate, I’m afraid.”
But officers at Metro were celebrating the continuation of Burns’ campaign.
The longtime SWAT commander started with the state’s largest police agency in 1986. He ran the department’s Bolden Area Command until his retirement last year and was heavily favored by patrol officers and Metro’s three unions. He also has the support of former Sheriff Jerry Keller and Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto.
Burns campaigned heavily on the community-oriented policing model he oversaw in Bolden. The Sherman Gardens Initiative, an extension of the Safe Village program, was started to reduce violent crime in West Las Vegas, a low-income, historically black neighborhood west of downtown Las Vegas.
“We have deep support of our officers. It’s a wonderful thing, and it’s humbling at the same time,” Burns said.
Burns’ opponents were critical of his handling of a lieutenant’s probation in the aftermath of the 2011 shooting death of Gulf War veteran Stanley Gibson. Burns’ superiors said he ignored an order from his boss to extend the probation of Lt. Dave Dockendorf, who worked for Burns, despite pending internal and criminal investigations.
Moody was one of Burns’ biggest critics, and ran a campaign that often criticized Gillespie and his administration.
After 30 years with the department, Moody abruptly retired last summer after Gillespie overruled a Use of Force Review Board’s recommendation to fire an officer who shot an unarmed man. Moody spearheaded an overhaul of the board, which had been considered a rubber-stamp favoring officers.
Moody claimed Gillespie undermined the integrity of the board, but his critics said the retirement was a politically choreographed move to boost his eventual bid for sheriff.
“We may have been outspent by our opponents 10-to-1, but the amount of support we’ve received from across the community has been amazing. At every turn, having so many wonderful supporters and volunteers rally around us, has made every moment something I’ll cherish forever,” he wrote in a statement.
Lombardo will be a tough candidate for Burns to overcome. In addition to key endorsements and money, he has a resume: He’s been a Metro officer for 25 years, the past three as an assistant sheriff. In the past he has run the department’s homeland security, search-and-rescue and patrol divisions, among others.
He said he’ll continue working to convince Metro’s officers and the public that he’s the best man for the job.
“I’m still working at Metro. I’m still meeting those (officers) on a daily basis. … It’s very hard for somebody to show up day one and take the reigns of that office,” he said.
He has more education and administrative experience than Burns, he said.
“I have a county-wide understanding of the office of sheriff,” he said.
Burns said his success at reducing violent crime in West Las Vegas will translate to the whole county.
“We’re all healing in Vegas this week,” Burns said. “Violent crime is there, it’s getting worse, and we need a plan to deal with it.”
Six other candidates ran for sheriff: Robert “Bobby G” Gronauer, District Court Marshal Angel Barboza, former Detective Gordon Martines, bail bondsman Tim Deam, Metro officer Kenneth “Nick” Page, and Bill Roman.