Sheriff Laurie Smith Heads to Runoff for First Time in 20 Years

Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith is heading for a runoff for the first time since her election five terms ago in 1998. Come November, she’ll be on the ballot with her former second-in-command, retired Undersheriff John Hirokawa.

Though she fell short of the 50 percent mark that would have secured her a sixth term in the primary this past Tuesday, Smith seemed pleased at coming so an outright win, with nearly 44 percent of the vote. Hirokawa, who gave his ex-boss a run for her money leading up to the Tuesday primary, secured a little more than 31 percent.

Laurie Smith enjoyed her election night at a private party in Willow Glen. (Photo by Dan Pulcrano)

Smith celebrated her lead at the Willow Glen home of attorney Christopher Schumb, who served sushi and Korean barbecue to the campaign team and other supporters.

Author, Korean martial arts grandmaster and motivational speaker Tae Yun Kim took the occasion to gift the sheriff with a sparkling forest-green dress outfit before Smith gave a speech on the back patio thanking her friends, family and voters for helping her through a difficult campaign.

Hirokawa watched the returns in a bustling barroom at the Kyoto Palace Japanese steakhouse in Campbell’s Pruneyard shopping center, where Santa Clara County Democrats hosted a buffet of deep-fried potstickers, fried rice and noodles.

Bill James, president of the Santa Clara County Democratic Party, said he felt hopeful after seeing the first round of ballot tallies. He noted that this race has been significant in part because it was the first time local Dems endorsed a sheriff candidate.

Hirokawa, dressed in a light gray suit and red tie, expressed “pleasant surprise” by his inaugural political endeavor. But the retired undersheriff said he’ll work on his presentation in the lead-up to the general election.

“Sometimes I get bogged down by specifics,” Hirokawa explained, grasping a half-empty glass of ice tea in one hand. “But when you’re campaigning, people respond better to a broader message. They want to know why something matters.”

The runner-up, who was one of a handful of challengers in the sheriff‘s race, also said he‘d commit to being transparent and accessible to the public, and suggested that Smith would be wise to do the same.

John Hirokawa chats up a supporter at Kyoto Palace. (Photo by Greg Ramar)

Smith‘s week got off to a rough start with more bad press about misconduct allegations, which she has assiduously denied. So instead of making a planned public appearance at the South Bay Labor Council just after the initial returns posted, the sheriff opted for a more private setting to spend the evening.

As the hours passed, attendees from other private parties hosted for candidates in other local races began to trickle into the Labor HQ. Fly tried to join the fun, but labor apparatchiks blocked entry, even though other reporters were milling about inside. A gatekeeper said the gathering was “media invite only,” which Fly has learned over the years means anyone but us.

Our photographer fared no better. A woman gripping a fistful of plastic forks blocked his entrance, demanding to know who he was and who he worked for. When he asked for her name, she replied, “I’m Betsy the Fork Lady.”

Well, fork this. We’re outta here.

Betsy the Fork Lady upholding the longstanding tradition of ousting us from the labor temple. (Photo by Greg Ramar)

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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.

5 Comments

  1. > Our photographer fared no better. A woman gripping a fistful of plastic forks blocked his entrance, demanding to know who he was and who he worked for. When he asked for her name, she replied, “I’m Betsy the Fork Lady.”

    Next time, use an illegal alien for a photographer.

    The Dems would NEVER block a “dreamer”.

    • I wonder what jurisdiction, which department. I just know I was trying to get a building permit or birth certificate thirty years ago and she had that exact same expression.

  2. There are still almost 100 thousand votes yet to be counted so, I think calling races and giving percentages is a bit premature don’t you?

  3. Karma for SJI/Metro for all the years of defending her. You guys haven’t reported half the crap she’s done wrong like the mainstream media has. Why?

  4. Because if you note, allegedly the fly and the photog couldn’t get into what was billed as a public event, but the owner of this wreck of a blog was at the private event and got a picture of our elusive sheriff for this piece. Makes you wonder what the truth of it all is and if SJI is even mildly capable of offering it.

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