Former Palo Alto police Chief Robert "Bob" Jonsen declared victory in a tight race with Kevin Jensen for Santa Clara County sheriff on Friday evening, but Jensen said he isn't conceding yet.
The latest ballot count posted Tuesday, Nov. 29, continued to hold in Jonsen's favor. He has 7,326 more votes than Jensen, according to the Registrar of Voters.
"We believe at this point Kevin Jensen will not be able to obtain the votes necessary to overcome the deficit," Jonsen said in a statement.
"I am humbled and grateful to all voters for their support. Kevin Jensen and I provided voters with two strong choices and I'm proud of the campaign as we stayed focused on the most pressing issues facing the Sheriff's Office. In the end, voters chose to go with a fresh set of eyes and I am ready to step up and lead the Department."
Jensen, who trails by 49.2% to Jonsen's 50.8% in the contest, said he'll wait for all of the votes to be counted. As of Nov. 29, 99% of the ballots have been counted, according to the Registrar of Voters.
"With the numbers so close, and with so many votes that I've gained in the last week … I have been asked by many to await the final count.
"No matter the outcome, I will still be fighting for the agency and the community against any lack of transparency or mismanagement like I have been for the last 12 years," Jensen said in a response.
Both candidates have promised to improve transparency, training and accountability in the beleaguered department, which has been wracked by multimillion-dollar lawsuits and corruption that caused former Sheriff Laurie Smith to resign on Oct. 31 as she awaited the verdict in her civil corruption trial. She was found guilty of six counts of corruption and misconduct on Nov. 3.
"There are many issues to address within the organization, specifically in the jails where we need to provide greater access to care and expand job-skill programs. I am committed to expanding the role of OCLEM (Office of Correction and Law Enforcement Monitoring) to continue our work around police reform and ensure greater transparency and accountability," Jonsen said. "We will have to address recruiting and retention issues as well. I am confident we can harness the institutional knowledge and experience within the organization to move the Sheriff's Office out of this constant cloud of controversy. I know the men and women who serve our community are ready for change and will rise to the occasion.
"It's time to start moving forward and I'm ready to lead the Sheriff's Office to where they want to be, and more importantly where the community needs us to be!," Jonsen said.
On Nov. 14, 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.
"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.
"It has to be the agency everyone deserves," he said.
The newly elected sheriff was originally set to assume office on Jan. 2, but the winner may take over sooner because of the sheriff's vacancy left by Smith's early departure. Undersheriff Ken Binder became acting sheriff immediately after Smith's resignation. Under the county's charter, the Board of Supervisors must fill the vacancy with a qualified county voter until a new sheriff is elected. An appointed sheriff would fill the vacancy for just two months before the newly elected sheriff would be sworn in.
The supervisors might under board policy choose to appoint the presumptive sheriff-elect to fill the role until he assumes elected office in January, according to a county counsel report. The board was set to consider the matter on Nov. 15, but they deferred it until Dec. 6, which will be two days prior to the registrar's election certification.