LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Republican Joe Lombardo is a high-profile sheriff trying to take down a Democratic governor who’s carrying the baggage of the COVID-19 pandemic. And Gov. Steve Sisolak isn’t getting much help from the Democratic Party’s image these days as President Joe Biden’s popularity continues to slide.

The political pundits said early on that Sisolak was vulnerable — one of the most vulnerable governors in America. And recent polls have shown that’s true.

Can Clark County Sheriff Lombardo take the next step and become Nevada’s next governor? A poll in September showed Lombardo and Sisolak deadlocked, with Lombardo closing the gap to pull even. And a new CNN poll out last week shows Lombardo pulling ahead.

Now, with early voting starting on Saturday, Oct. 22, the campaign is just getting more intense as negative campaign ads from both sides saturate the media. Campaign finance reports released this month show millions still available for a surge of messaging as Nov. 8 approaches.

Recent campaign ads have slammed Sisolak on economic themes dating to the start of the pandemic, blaming the governor for the upheaval caused by the decision to shut down businesses as COVID-19 began to spread in March of 2020. Sisolak has been targeted on that point for the past two and a half years, and now there’s more fuel on the fire.

Republicans are also talking about an investigative report by ProPublica published in May about COVID-19 testing company Northshore Labs. A $2.5 million ad campaign funded by the Republican Governors Association shamed Sisolak for fast-tracking the company’s role in testing, and Northshore’s record of inaccurate testing results — a 96% error rate. Nevada rescinded Northshore’s license two months before the ProPublica report was released.

Democrats have pushed ad campaigns against Lombardo targeting decisions he made in the sheriff’s office. They blast Lombardo for shutting down the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department’s gang unit and for his support of Kevin McMahill through misconduct allegations surrounding a 1995 incident. McMahill won election as Lombardo’s successor as sheriff. More criticism for eliminating positions in the police department has been rebuffed, with Lombardo saying the cuts to part-time positions were a product of the pandemic, and have since been recovered.

Lombardo has also been assailed for his anti-abortion views — attacks he has dismissed as “moot” because of abortion protections that are already law in Nevada.

Lombardo has been endorsed by Donald Trump, but he has distanced himself from Trump’s repeated assertions that the 2020 election was “stolen” and riddled with fraud.

Ed Bridges of the Independent American Party and Brandon Davis of the Libertarian Party are also on the ballot.

The race for Nevada governor was one of seven races for governor highlighted by The Hill in an article last week. That article cited a CNN poll showing Lombardo with a 2-percentage-point lead over Sisolak (48% compared to Sisolak’s 46%).

If the economy is the reason behind voter turnout this year, most Republicans will benefit. But if the electorate comes out to show their displeasure with the Supreme Court’s abortion ruling that threw out Roe v. Wade, Democrats might have the upper hand.

The CNN poll indicated that right now, it’s the economy.

A lot can happen in the three weeks leading up to the election, but the future is in voters’ hands now, and the race is too close to call.