Despite working 14 years as a deputy for the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office, Joseph LaJeunesse still very much feels like an outsider. The 47-year-old ex-U.S. Army major hopes to defeat his boss, Sheriff Laurie Smith, 65, in the 2018 election, but he has little support within the ranks and a strained relationship with his union. When the Deputy Sheriffs’ Association (DSA) invited him last month to talk to members about his qualifications, the union’s event notice cited his deputy rank but made no mention of his military service. LaJeunesse called the omission proof that the union is biased toward his other opponent, retired Undersheriff John Hirokawa, 60. That set off a heated exchange on Facebook with Kevin Jensen, a retired captain and failed 2014 sheriff’s candidate, who accused LaJeunesse of slander. LaJeunesse says his career at the sheriff’s office got off to a similarly rocky start. When the Army deployed LaJeunesse in 2003 to Iraq—a month into police academy—the sheriff’s office asked him to resign, he claims. “By federal law, you can’t do that,” he says. “You can’t ask people to resign if they’re serving the country in war.” But LaJeunesse hopes his outsider status helps differentiate him from the five-term incumbent and her former second-in-command, Hirokawa, who together oversaw the agency during a series of high-profile jail scandals. The deputy—believed to be the first person to run against Smith while still working for her—says his 27 years in the military make him uniquely qualified for the job. For one thing, LaJeunesse says, he served at Abu Ghraib prison as it enacted sweeping reforms after the infamous torture scandal. LaJeunesse says that experience gives him insight into how to transform Santa Clara County’s jails, which have been slow to adopt reforms in the years since three deputies murdered mentally ill inmate Michael Tyree.