In the June primary election for Santa Clara County Sheriff we endorsed former Undersheriff John Hirokawa in hopes that a fall campaign might demonstrate he had the capability to improve upon Sheriff Laurie Smith's rather mediocre performance over the last 20 years.
Instead, we've come to the opposite conclusion.
Hirokawa has bounced from one problem to another since winning enough votes in the primary to force a run-off. He missed the deadline to file his ballot statement and then in court filings tried to blame the Registrar of Voters for it, first saying he had not been properly notified of the deadline and then denying he received a reminder letter. If he can't follow simple rules like every other candidate and take responsibility for his own errors, he isn't qualified to be the leader of a complex 1,800-person, $350 million public agency.
Hirokawa also made comments in a deposition that appeared to be defending the head of the Deputy Sheriffs' Association, which had endorsed him. Racist text messages that surfaced between the union president and several other deputies led to disciplinary action, but Hirokawa's statements revealed more concern for the deputies and due process than for the ugly text messages they had sent and the culture they revealed.
Santa Clara County voters deserve a competent and visionary chief law-enforcement officer. Smith is, finally, on the right track with implementing long-needed jail reforms, and we are optimistic she will follow through on concerns about the oversight of the Stanford police force, which operates under an unusual grant-of-authority from the county that gives the private institution full police powers.
In spite of her shortcomings, which include an uninspired and weak administrative record over her two decades in the office, we believe she is the better choice.