A new 30-second ad shows Douglas County Sheriff Tim Dunning criticizing Mayor Jean Stothert. Mayor Stothert, Police Chief Todd Schmaderer and the president of the Omaha Police Officer's Association all responded Thursday night.
The spot shows Dunning sitting in front of a white backdrop. He says, "We have a real problem in Douglas County. A problem that my deputies and I deal with every single day. Violent crimes, rapes, assaults and property crimes are all up. Response times are up 10 percent on Jean Stothert's watch. Imagine if you have a life-threatening emergency in Elkhorn and the closest Omaha cop is 155 blocks away. That's unacceptable. I feel like Jean Stothert puts politics over public safety, and it's making Omaha a more dangerous place to live."
The ad then tells people to call the mayor and gives a hotline number.
A graphic states the ad is sponsored by A Better Omaha, Inc.
Tonight, Mayor Stothert issued a statement that read, "My record on public safety and working with the community to decrease crime speaks for itself. The TV ad is a desperate attempt to distort that by an individual, Sheriff Dunning, who has an axe to grind."
The mayor's statement continued, "My opponent, Mr. Mello, promoted the sheriff as his biggest catch weeks ago; he even announced it with a press conference. And now we are to believe Mello had no knowledge of this shadow group using his most visible supporter for a TV ad less than a week before the election? I don’t buy it, and voters won’t buy it."
Heath Mello, who is running for Omaha mayor, told 3 News Now tonight he was surprised by the ad, and he has no connection to the ad.
The Omaha Police Department also sent a statement to media outlets.
"We realize it is unprecedented to have a joint statement coming from both the Omaha Police Chief Todd Schmaderer and the Omaha Police Officers Association President John Wells; however, we felt it was imperative to have a unified front to denounce the assertion made by Sheriff Tim Dunning that Omaha is a more dangerous place to live."
They said, "In addition, this joint statement does not endorse or denounce one mayoral candidate over the other. It was done in support of the hard working men and women of the Omaha Police Department."
Mello's campaign released a statement on Friday morning.
"We had no idea this ad was running and are not coordinated with that group whatsoever. People across Omaha are worried about rising crime rates, and it's not surprising Sheriff Dunning independently decided to speak out."
The primary election is April 4.