John Hirokawa Takes On Former Boss Sheriff Laurie Smith in 2018

Santa Clara County Sheriff  Laurie Smith is running for a sixth term in 2018, and she’ll be facing her former second-in-command, John Hirokawa. After retiring last summer as undersheriff, Hirokawa filed for candidacy earlier this month and put up a campaign website and Facebook page to gear up for a run against his ex-boss. “I believe we need to see some change,” says the 60-year-old, who has nearly four decades of experience in both custody and enforcement. “She’s been sheriff for a while, but I think it’s my time to bring forth an agenda that’s focused on moving the agency forward.” Both candidates tell Fly that they want to prioritize jail reforms, most of which were proposed after three jail deputies were charged with murdering mentally ill inmate Michael Tyree in 2015. “We’re so focused on the jail transformation right now, so I’m not running a campaign at this moment,” says Smith, who would become the longest-serving sheriff in county history if she wins another four years in office. “But you know, everything we’re doing at the jail is going to take more than a year. I’m committed to seeing this through.” That both candidates oversaw the county’s troubled jails could make them a tough sell to voters. Technically, the fatal beating of Tyree and other incidents happened on both of their watch. Hirokawa says he began pushing for sweeping changes before Tyree’s death, however. “I was already examining things,” he says. “I was already listening to people.” Former subordinates have tried to unseat Smith before—retired Capt. Kevin Jensen lost to her in 2014, despite endorsements from the unions that represent correctional and enforcement deputies. Hirokawa gave Smith a courtesy call before publicly announcing his intent to run, which the sheriff hopes will bode well for the tone of the race. “We’ve known each other forever,” Smith says, “and I can say that he’s a very nice person.”

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The Fly is a weekly column written by San Jose Inside staff that provides a behind-the-scenes look at local politics.

2 Comments

  1. that neither one will support federal immigration law or allowing responsible, law abiding citizens to arm themselves for protection disqualifies both of them

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