Palo Alto Police Chief Robert “Bob” Jonsen appears to be leading in the primary election for Santa Clara County Sheriff, marking the end of incumbent Laurie Smith’s more than two decades in office.
As of 8pm Tuesday, with 45% of the votes counted, Jonsen is in the lead with 34.58% of the vote, or 48,626 votes. Behind Jonsen is retired Sheriff Cpt. Kevin Jensen, with 29.39% or 41,323 votes. Sheriff Sgt. Christine Nagaye is trailing in third with 19.13% of the vote or 26,907 votes. Behind Nagaye is Sheriff Sgt. Sean Allen with 12.60% or 17,716 votes. In last is business owner Anh Colton, with 6,050 votes or 4.3% of the vote.
Asked by San José Spotlight how he feels, Jonsen said, “Encouraged but still a long way to go.”
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Jensen, 58, tried to unseat Smith in 2014 but lost the election. Jensen retired from the department in 2013 after serving more than three decades in various roles in both the jail and Sheriff’s Office. He began his career in the county in the mid-1980s working as a correctional officer at Elmwood Correctional Facility.
Jensen won the most significant endorsements of the race: the Deputy Sheriff’s Association of Santa Clara County and the Santa Clara County Correctional Peace Officers Association. He has also been endorsed by former county Supervisor Blanca Alvarado. As of April, Jensen has raised more than $200,000.
The next best funded campaign is that of Robert Jonsen, the 59-year-old police chief of Palo Alto. Jonsen has worked in Palo Alto for four years, and before that he served five years as Menlo Park Police Chief. Jonsen worked 27 years in the La County Sheriff’s Office, retiring as captain of Lancaster Station.
Jonsen, a registered Democrat, has been endorsed by former state Sen. Jim Bell, the Democratic Asian Pacific American Club and the Sunnyvale Democratic Club. As of April, he has raised over $66,000.
Behind Jonsen is Sgt. Christine Nagaye, who has worked in the department for 20 years. She has spent seven years as a supervising sergeant and previously worked in the office’s operational standards and inspections unit and at the Elmwood and main jail. Nagaye is a veteran of the U.S. military, having served five year as a combat medic and training officer.
Nagaye, 51, is a registered Democrat and has been endorsed by the Dean Democratic Club of Silicon Valley. As of April, she has raised $47,183.
Sgt. Sean Allen, also running to replace Smith, has worked in the department for almost 30 years. Allen, 52, has mostly worked in the jail system. He previously served as a board member of the Santa Clara County Correctional Peace Officers’ Association and is the founder of Lodge 65 of the Fraternal Order of Police in California.
Allen, a registered Democrat, has been endorsed by Reverend Jeff Moore, former president of the Silicon Valley NAACP, and several retired sheriff employees. According to his latest campaign statement, Allen has received over $8,000 in contributions.
The last candidate, business owner Anh Colton, is a latecomer to the race. There is little publicly available information about Colton, who declined to speak with San José Spotlight. Colton is not a law enforcement officer and it’s unclear if she would qualify for office. California law requires county sheriffs to have experience as certified law enforcement officers.
Contact Eli Wolfe at firstname.lastname@example.org or @EliWolfe4 on Twitter.
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