JEFFERSON PARISH - Another candidate officially announced plans to run for Jefferson Parish Sheriff.

John Fortunato held an event in Metairie Thursday night to kick off his campaign for Sheriff. His announcement came the same week the University of New Orleans released findings of a survey naming him as the current leading candidate.

"Tonight I am taking the first step towards a lifelong dream," he said. "In plain words, I have prepared my whole life to say to you and the people of Jefferson Parish, I am trained, I am tested and I am a candidate for sheriff of Jefferson Parish."

Fortunato is now the second person to throw their name in this race. The other, Interim Jefferson Parish Sheriff Joseph Lopinto, responded to Fortunato's announcement in a written statement.

"I'm focused on doing my job as sheriff, keeping the people of Jefferson Parish safe," Lopinto said. "As far as the campaign, I have raised over $600,000 to date because of the broad base of strong support for my candidacy in this community. I look forward to continuing to show that I have the right combination of qualifications and demeanor to keep the Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office operating at the high standard of excellence our citizens expect and deserve."

The race for sheriff is expected to be heated. With about five months to go before people decide, the race is already gaining attention around the community.

"Both these candidates have (worked in) criminal justice or law enforcement their entire adult lives," said UNO researcher, Tony Licciardi.

Earlier in the week, the University of New Orleans conducted a survey about the upcoming sheriff's election.

"I thought it was important for the Survey Center at UNO to get a baseline of where the candidates are in the infancy of the campaign," Licciardi said.

426 voters were asked who they'd choose if the election were today. The results Licciardi says, are interesting.

"We found that longtime spokesperson, John Fortunato, led the poll with 44 percent to Lopinto's 19 percent, with 37 percent unknown," he said. "Lopinto finds twice as much support on the east bank as he does the west bank because he's a more known commodity on the east bank having served in the Legislature."

However, with so many people still unsure how they'll vote and with plenty of time until election day, Licciardi says it's anyone's race.

"The results tell me there's still a lot of unknowns and still a lot of time for candidates to get in the race," he said. "Things can change and they can change quickly when new participants enter the race. I guess we'll see if that happens."

One thing Licciardi noted was survey participants were asked the same question by the same automated voice, that way there'd be no interview bias. So the results, he says, are pretty accurate.

To read more on the survey, as well as how the voters feel about Yenni as Parish President, click here.