Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith, seeking a sixth term after becoming the state’s first woman to rise to her rank, is facing a spirited challenge by John Hirokawa, her former undersheriff and second-in-command.

Early returns show Smith falling short of surpassing the 50 percent vote threshold to avoid a runoff election in November. Smith has not dealt with a runoff since her first election in 1998, an open race created by the retirement of Chuck Gillingham.

Hirokawa was one of four challengers vying to unseat Smith, along with retired Sheriff’s Lt. Jose Salcido, Deputy Joe La Jeunesse, and retired San Jose police sergeant Martin Monica.

La Jeunesse is making a surprise showing in early returns, given that he polled a distant third heading into Tuesday’s primary election. Salcido and Monica also outperformed earlier polling, helping keep Smith from earning a runoff-proof majority.

Hirokawa was Smith’s strongest challenger, capturing the endorsement of the deputies union while Smith won the endorsement of the correctional officers union. Both sparred over who was to blame and who led reforms after the infamous beating death of mentally ill inmate Michael Tyree in 2015 at the hands of three jail deputies who were later convicted of murder.

In San Mateo County, Sheriff Carlos Bolanos was fending off challenger Mark Melville to win his first full term. The Board of Supervisors appointed Bolanos, then undersheriff, to the post in 2016 after Greg Munks stepped down for health reasons.

Melville, a veteran patrol deputy, had pointed to Bolanos and Munks’ detainment at a Las Vegas brothel 11 years ago as a key reason why voters should elect him to be the county’s top cop. Bolanos argued his challenger lacked the necessary executive experience to be sheriff.

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Source:: The Mercury News – Latest News


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Santa Clara sheriff headed for runoff based on early returns

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