A Refreshing Transformation From Sheriff Lombardo to Candidate for Nevada Governor

(AP Photo/John Locher)

On Thursday, I attended a Joe Lombardo (R) for Nevada Governor campaign event billed as a fireside chat alongside former South Carolina Governor and UN Ambassador Nikki Haley. The event was hosted at a Las Vegas local mechanical construction business. I was greeted with a large American flag waiving atop a crane, and was flagged by staffers to available parking before being greeted, diligently checked in, and escorted to a seat, each person along the way shaking my hand and giving their name.


The event had a blue-collar feel, a departure from the often formal and too-stuffy political gatherings I am accustomed to traversing through, while Team Lombardo offered refreshments and complimentary campaign gear. 

Meet Joe

As Lombardo entered the stage my immediate thought was, “Great suit.”

I’m not a menswear aficionado, but he looked sharp and it was a departure from the tan police uniform Nevadans are accustomed to seeing him in. This is the first inclination I had that this was not Sheriff Lombardo we just watched hours before giving a press conference on the capture of a convicted murderer who escaped from a state-run prison. This is Joe Lombardo, the Republican running for Governor.

After the Pledge of Allegiance, Lombardo (who everyone else simply calls Joe, I learned, while Nikki Haley wanted to be called Nikki, not Ambassador Haley) addressed the crowd about the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department’s capture of the fugitive since it was the news of the day taking place around 10 p.m. the prior night.

While his approach to the subject was more relaxed, sitting atop a swivel barstool with a chairback instead of the police podium we often see him at, his tone was still as we expect from law enforcement. He sounded collected, not particularly emotional, and his explanations of the event were fact-based and in a linear timeline. 


And then it happened.

“We were successful last night,” he said. “So we had notified the public, the FBI came forward,” but he paused mid-sentence, realizing some of the audience members had moved to applaud the fugitive capture but stopped short as to not interrupt a speaker. Lombardo said, “You can clap if you want,” and the crowd absolutely did want and gave a very authentic, celebratory applause. In return, Lombardo smiled as Nikki Haley clapped while laughing, enjoying the levity.

That moment was transformative, not just for the tone and demeanor of the speakers warming up to a receptive audience, but for Nevadans familiar with Lombardo as a figure who addresses us about high-profile cases, public safety, and other very serious subject matter. There is no clapping at police press conferences, even when we are happy with the announcements of a job well done. It’s all notes, procedure, and formality against the backdrop of rapid-fire questions from reporters, some more sincere in their intentions than others.

Here are clips from Thursday’s press conference for comparison:


As Lombardo let the crowd know that they were free to engage in the way they would want to, he reciprocated by showing guests a less buttoned-up side as well.

We never get to see Lombardo smiling or enjoying himself, and that makes sense given his administrative roles and majorly consequential responsibilities. We knew Sheriff Lombardo, but now we know Joe. If there is one thing to be said about those with long careers in law enforcement it’s that they have seen some jarring things in their line of work, and at the end of the day they still go home to be ordinary, every day… well, Joes. 

Light Entertainment

There were other moments I found enjoyable and a shared sense of humor evolved between Lombardo, Haley, and the guests. Nevadans forgot about comedy being a thing at all in political spaces because we spent the last years playing “you get the carrot or the stick” with Sisolak. Even when Sisolak thinks he’s being authentic or funny, it’s just an ad of him cosplaying an NFL coach blowing a whistle and yelling at players to “Put your back into it!” If that’s humor- it’s slapstick- and lacks nuance or relatability, as does Sisolak on the whole. Building personal rapport without the high-dollar buffoonery is much appreciated in Nevada.

When Lombardo responded to one of the moderator’s questions by starting with, “That’s a good question,” the moderator admitted she wished she had written the question but it had come from the campaign staff. Lombardo joked, “Well, I wish they had given me the answer,” before continuing to lay out his prongs for economic growth in the state.


At another point, Lombardo said, “Hey, isn’t this an HVAC company?” as they had cut the air conditioning for noise reduction during the speaking portions of the event. Of course, Las Vegas doesn’t have a cool climate so he wasn’t the only one to notice, but this was done out of respect for the speakers and it was nice that a speaker… spoke up because it turns out they did have an awesome cooling system that provided immediate comfort, even at the expense of a little ambient noise.

Economic Vision

Lombardo’s message on the economic policy for our state was compelling. He was checking off the boxes on how, listing diversity, workforce development, integrating our education system with a jobs pipeline to industry, improving education while supporting choice, public safety, and economic stability to encourage new businesses to come here. He said,

“You have got to have a safe environment where they can put down roots, and that’s how you do it, that’s my plan.”

Lombardo spoke of the importance of a stable tax and regulatory environment, as well as easing occupational licensing. Lombardo made a promise to Nevadans, telling the audience,

“There will be less regulations at the end of my first term than when I started.”

 I encourage voters to read more about his economic platform on the campaign website.

Creating Contrasts

Incumbent Governor Sisolak was mentioned several times during the Q&A segment. At one point Lombardo told the audience that Sisolak has a reputation for being unreachable. Lombardo recalled the last conversation he had with incumbent Governor Steve Sisolak (D) during the COVID mitigation efforts. He told the audience he asked Sisolak, “How many different forms of economy do they have in Nevada?” He said that Sisolak rattled off a few. Lombardo followed up by asking, “How many do they have in California?”


Sisolak is said to have admitted that they have a lot. Lombardo told the crowd that he informed Sisolak,

“They can survive the draconian restrictions… with exporting and all these things we don’t do,”

Lombardo said that Sisolak doubled down saying,

“That this was the decision he was making and the direction he was going,”

Lombardo said that Sisolak had taken California Governor Gavin Newsom’s lead, describing it as,

“the direction for his state and we need direction for our state and that’s what I’m doing.”

 Haley agreed that Nevada could not continue on a path of following California, saying,

“You have to start creating win-wins and that’s what Joe is going to bring to the table. You can’t keep looking to California on how to do things.”


Haley acknowledged the suffering Nevadans have endured under their current governor. She said,

“You deserve better, you deserve better, you’ve been through enough pain and trauma of Sisoalk. You need a good dose of therapy and medicine and light and you are gonna get it when you vote Joe Lombardo for your Governor in Nevada.”


Haley also got in on some of the fun while giving advice to Lombardo as a previous governor, saying, 

“It’s okay to break things, go in there and break it up. Government breaks more things than they fix, when you break it you make government about customer service.”

With a laugh, she added more advice,

“Don’t lose faith, and don’t screw it up!”

Lombardo closed his address by telling the crowd he was confident we would win on November 8th for two reasons. He told the audience he believed in the voters of Nevada saying,

“The first reason is because of you,”

He added the second reason to be attributed to the date of the election,

“The second reason is that it’s my birthday,” 

The crowd laughed along with Lombardo as he added,

“Don’t ruin my birthday!”

The crowd did some chanting led by Haley before upbeat music came on signaling the event’s closure. Voters lined up to have their photographs taken with Lombardo and Haley while campaign staffers handed out yard signs. While the event was somewhat of a standard campaign procedure, it was well executed, Lombardo’s plan was thought out, comprehensive and achievable, and missed a lot of meaningless rhetoric we often hear in politics. Lombardo, as usual, was all policy but now presented with refreshing charisma. 


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