Former Palo Alto police Chief Robert "Bob" Jonsen might continue to lead over Kevin Jensen in the contest for Santa Clara County sheriff, but Jensen isn't stepping down from the race.
Jonsen, who ran on the platform of being an outsider who would bring reform to the beleaguered sheriff's office, has 50.7% of the vote to Jensen's 49.3% with an estimated 91% of the total ballots cast counted as of Thursday, Nov. 17, according to the Registrar of Voters.
On Monday, Nov. 14, Jensen said if he was way ahead or way behind, the right thing to do would be to either concede the race or declare victory, but the race is still too close to call.
"A lot of people's hopes are riding on this," he said. "The concerns that I raised are what keep me in this fight." In a Palo Alto Weekly questionnaire earlier this year, Jensen said he has publicly called out the "mismanagement" at the Sheriff's Office over the past 12 years. The former sheriff's captain also claimed that Jonsen has the support of Laurie Smith, who recently stepped down as sheriff as she awaited the verdict in her civil corruption trial, which resulted in a guilty conviction.
"Whatever the outcome is, I will still be a vocal proponent of justice for our agency and the community. I have to call out mismanagement, and a lack of transparency or ethics, especially in an agency that is this damaged," he said.
Jensen raised more than twice the money of Jonsen and had the benefit of hundreds of thousands of dollars in support through union and law enforcement political action committees. He had been working to convince voters that despite serving in the sheriff's office for many years under Smith, who resigned on Oct. 31, he would bring change to the office.
For the past 12 years, he has been a vocal critic of his ex-boss, who was found guilty of six counts of corruption and misconduct in a civil corruption trial on Nov. 3. Jonsen has characterized Jensen as an "insider" who would not bring the necessary reforms needed for the office, which has faced bribery scandals and lawsuits for deputies who mishandled mentally ill inmates and cost the county more than $20 million in legal settlements.
Jonsen also faced criticism regarding transparency — a major topic in the race — for his handling of police radio encryption and concerns about the behavior of some of his officers, which resulted in legal settlements related to officer brutality.
Jensen said the characterization of him as an "insider," including by the media, and the similarities in their last names, hurt his campaign. He doesn't have a problem if the "outsider" who runs the department will make real transformations and be truly transparent.
If Jonsen wins, Jensen said he will expect the former Palo Alto police chief to be transparent, and he wouldn't hold back on speaking out if Jonsen is not.
He also won't retreat to the shadows.
"It has to be the agency everyone deserves," he said.
Jonsen said in a Nov. 15 text message that he is optimistic about the returns.
"But there are still thousands of votes to be counted, so in fairness to the process we are content to let all the votes be counted before declaring victory.
"If the votes remain in my favor, I am ready to begin working with the amazing men and women of the Sheriff's Office to get the organization where it needs to be."
This story will be updated as more information becomes available.