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Sheriff Joe Lombardo kicks off campaign for Nevada governor

June 28, 2021 GMT
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Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo speaks with journalists at a news conference announcing his candidacy for governor of Nevada, Monday, June 28, 2021, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
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Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo speaks with journalists at a news conference announcing his candidacy for governor of Nevada, Monday, June 28, 2021, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo formally kicked off his campaign for governor Monday, telling supporters in Las Vegas that he believed it was time to rid Nevada of “one-party rule” by unseating Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak.

“Single-party rule has led to politicians focusing on felons’ rights, prioritizing criminals over victims, weakening penalties for crimes and handcuffing the police. That is not sustainable behavior for any state, let alone a state that relies so heavily on tourism,” the Republican said at Rancho High School, his alma mater.

Lombardo, who leads the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department and confirmed last month that he was running for governor, officially launched his campaign before embarking on a statewide tour, with stops planned in Reno, Carson City, Winnemucca, Elko and Ely.

He’s running in a Republican primary that’s attracted North Las Vegas Mayor John Lee, who recently left the Democratic Party to become a Republican, and Joey Gilbert, a northern Nevada attorney who has questioned the results of the 2020 presidential election. Former U.S. Sen. Dean Heller also is considering a run and has been making recent appearances before rural GOP groups ahead of any official decision.

Lombardo’s announcement speech previewed his platform and the talking points that Republicans plan to use in the 2022 midterms. The two-term sheriff, who has never run in a partisan race, said he would block teaching critical race theory in schools, establish an “election integrity commission” and defend the Second Amendment.

He promised to veto any proposed tax increases and support “school choice” alternatives to traditional public schools. He also pushed back against criticism of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department’s decision to withdraw from a program coordinating with federal immigration officers and said he had “zero tolerance” for immigrants who break the law.

“There’s been a lot of rhetoric out there that I have created a sanctuary jurisdiction. That is absolutely not true,” Lombardo said. “What we did is adjust, moved resources and addressed the problem to move forward, versus backing up and say, ‘We raised our hands and gave up.’”

The Republican primary will not be held until June 2022, and hopefuls do not officially file their declaration of candidacy forms until early next year. But they typically jump into the race this far out to raise enough money for a statewide campaign and publicize their name.

They’re vying to take on Sisolak, who was elected in 2018 by 4 percentage points. He was the political swing state’s first Democratic governor in two decades.

Before he was elected to the top office, Sisolak was chairman of the Clark County Commission and worked closely with Lombardo, an elected official who oversees some 5,000 Las Vegas police officers, the state’s largest force.

The two teamed up after the 2017 mass shooting on the Las Vegas Strip, the deadliest in modern U.S. history that killed 58 people and injured hundreds of others, to launch an online fundraiser for victims that quickly collected more than $10 million.

Lombardo started with the department as an officer in 1988. He was promoted through the ranks for 26 years, becoming an assistant sheriff in 2011 before he retired as a commissioned officer. He was elected in 2014 as sheriff and reelected in 2018.

Former Lt. Gov. Mark Hutchison, who served from 2015 to 2019, will be chairman of Lombardo’s campaign and introduced him Monday as “the strongest conservative candidate who can win the general election.”

“Joe’s showed me why he’s been elected twice as a conservative, pro-life, pro-Second Amendment Republican in our state’s bluest county,” he said.

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Metz reported from Carson City, Nevada, and is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.