Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith has avoided speaking to journalists since the Mercury News published a story a couple weeks ago that unearthed decades-old allegations of misconduct. Now, the 20-year sheriff who’s running for an unprecedented sixth term this June refuses to sit down for an endorsement interview with Silicon Valley’s daily paper of record until it retracts the entire article.
That’s a big ask, her longtime attorney Rich Robinson concedes, but he says the sheriff stands by it because “the whole thing was a lie, every single line of it.”
Smith making herself inaccessible to the Merc’s editorial board and news reporters comes amid criticism from her main challenger for re-election that she’s also disengaged from constituents.
Former Undersheriff John Hirokawa, who’s one of a handful of candidates in the sheriff’s race, called Smith out on Tuesday for declining to participate in a series of upcoming candidate forums where she’d have a chance to publicly address an ongoing inmate hunger strike, the recent re-introduction of riot guns in the jails and how federal immigration agents were “mistakenly” allowed to interview detainees earlier this year.
Bill James—who chairs the county Democratic Party, which endorsed Hirokawa—says he hopes Smith “reconsiders her approach and remembers who she works for.”
Assistant Sheriff Rick Sung, a Smith supporter, dismisses remarks from Hirokawa and his backers as desperate.
“They’re doing everything they can to muddy the campaign,” Sung says.
In a brief phone call Tuesday, the sheriff declined to comment for fear of being “taken way out of context.”
But one of her campaign consultants, Laura Teutschel, says anyone who thinks Smith is aloof should keep in mind that she’s balancing two extremely demanding jobs.
“Bottom line is she’s running the sheriff’s office and she’s campaigning,” Teutschel says. “But she’s out in the community all the time.”
Below is a list of events provided by Teutschel where the sheriff plans to make an appearance.
District 8 Roundtable, May 4
Berryessa Citizens Advisory Council, May 14
League of Women Voters, May 17
PAC for the Common Good, May 17
San Jose Pioneer Lions Club’s 16th Annual Community Safety Awards, April 18
9th Annual International Children’s Festival, April 21
Law Enforcement Appreciation Day at Iglesia Ni Cristo, April 21
A Holocaust Survivor’s Story Event, April 23
La Raza Roundtable, April 27