By Ray Hagar, Nevada Newsmakers
Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo, a Republican running for governor, said Friday that many people feel the Culinary Union is “calling the shots” in state government, especially when it comes to Nevada’s casino/resort industry.
Speaking on Nevada Newsmakers, Lombardo said many in the business community have shunned current Gov. Steve Sisolak because of his close ties to labor.
“It was unfortunate he (Sisolak) was a ‘persona non grata’ after being elected,” Lombardo told host Sam Shad. “And a lot of that is endemic to the labor (unions) associated with the state.
“The majority of the labor (in Nevada) is non-union but a portion of it is (unionized) and a lot of people, quite often, mention the Culinary Union in that dynamic and the Culinary Union calling the shots in association with everything to do in the state of Nevada, in particular in the casino industry,” Lombardo said.
Republicans have traditionally not gained wide support of the unions in Nevada elections since GOP/union policies do not align well and because of the Democrats’ strong ties among union leaders and workers.
Sisolak recently hired Yvanna Cancela as his chief of staff, who was political director for the influential Culinary Local 226 union in Clark County for six years before she was appointed to the state senate in 2016. In 2018, she won the senate seat outright. She was working in the Biden Administration when Sisolak hired her.
“Every candidate wants support across the board but you have to look at what’s more important for the state and what is best for the state versus your own personal campaign,” Lombardo said. “I use this term quite often, ‘pandering for votes,’ You have to remove yourself as an agency or head of the state to do what is best for the entire community.”
Lombardo made it clear he is not friends with Sisolak, even though the two worked well together in the aftermath of the Route 91 Harvest music festival massacre in 2017, where a Mesquite man on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay fired more than 1,000 rounds into the crowd, killing 60.
Lombardo said any past interactions with Sisolak were only part of a professional relationship they had.
“It is nothing more than that,” Lombardo said. “There is nothing to be read into that. There is nothing nefarious with that.”
Lombardo, unsolicited, said he was not a “stalking horse” to Sisolak’s campaign.
“People have said, ‘Well, you guys are friends. You are a stalking horse.’ That’s absolutely false,” Lombardo said. “I have some other things I could be doing than a stalking horse for Steve Sisolak. What I want to do is run the state and I think I can do a better job.
“Now as far as a personal relationship with Steve Sisolak, I have none,” Lombardo said. “I have not gone out to dinner with him. I have not broken bread with him. I don’t even know where he lives, to tell you the truth.”
He quickly added: “Well, I have the sense of where he lives. I have never been to his house.”
The Las Vegas massacre, where Sisolak and Lombardo worked so well together, is unforgettable for Lombardo.
“First and foremost, it was under my watch, so it was troublesome,” he said. “You go back 1,000 times, 10,000 times to ask what could we have done different? How could we have prevented it. And unfortunately, this is one of those one-off events. There was no intelligence received, no warning, no threat associated with this individual or knowledge of this individual.”
Lombardo is proud of his department’s response to the shooting, including, “the timeliness to prevent further carnage.”
The shooter killed himself in his hotel room with the officers outside the door, trying to get in, Lombardo said.
“I firmly believe that him knowing we were at the door is the reason why he took his own life,” Lombardo said. “And upon entry into the room, we discovered in excess of over 4,000 rounds still available to this individual and multiple guns. So he could have continued his carnage for quite some time.”
The experienced has changed him, Lombardo said.
“How has it change me?” he asked in response to the question. “You have to be aware, you can’t internalize, you can’t personalize it. It isn’t your fault but you have to be comfortable within your own skin, knowing that you did everything to prevent it. And if you couldn’t prevent it, you did everything, trained your employees and your first responders to respond to it appropriately and cease the threat.”
Michele Fiore, also a Republican running for governor, questioned Lombardo’s stance on the Second Amendment during a recent Nevada Newsmakers interview, saying Lombardo likes the idea of carrying a gun on his hip, but doesn’t want others to do the same.
Lombardo said he supports “recreational firearm owners and the need (for guns) for personal protection.”
He said he has developed “a little bit different perspective than most people because of my career in law enforcement.”
His issue is with high-capacity magazines for weapons such as AR-15s. He stressed his issue with high-capacity magazines is his personal belief and does not plan on sponsoring any gun legislation on the matter, if elected governor.
“The question is the high-capacity magazine issue,” he said. “Yeah, I opined on that a couple of times when I was presented with the (hypothetical question of) what would you do if you could in the gun-control space. I did not say that I would bring legislation forward. I have no intention of bringing legislation forward to address this particular issue. But I do not understand the need for greater manufacturer-issued standard magazines for weaponry.”
Lombardo, sheriff for seven years, has seen at least six Metropolitan Police Department employees die of Covid-19, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
“What I do as the head of the agency and the head administrator is try to provide them with all the information associated with it, whatever it may be, and the accuracy of that information and ensure that they are educated before they make that decision,” he said.
Unfortunately, some folks have made the decision not to get the vaccine and they have lost their life as a result,” he said.
Lombardo said he has been vaccinated and even though he has stressed vaccine education to his employees, he does not believe in forcing employees to get the vaccine shot.
“It comes down to personal belief, right, whether you feel the government is telling the truth, whether you are educated enough on all of the issues on something that you are injecting into your body, whether you are willing to deal with that or take the chances with it,” he said.
“Granted, I am vaccinated and I support vaccines but do I support mandates and force it upon individuals? No.”
Lombardo said he tries to educate Metro Police employees on “all the true science.”
“So what we do, the best we can, is educate them on all the true science associated with the vaccine and the benefit to families, whether good or bad or indifferent, and have them make their decision,” Lombardo said.