Weekend ballot counting propelled former Palo Alto Police Chief Robert “Rob” Jonsen to victory in the contest for Santa Clara County Sheriff, over retired sheriff’s captain Kevin Jensen.
Through last week, Jensen edged closer to Jonsen, who had led throughout ballot counting since the Nov. 8 vote.
Results posted Sunday evening, with an estimated 96% of county ballots tallied by the county Registrar of Voters, showed Jonsen ahead by 1.58 percentage points. That’s about half the margin Jonsen held over Jensen on Election Day, when 49% of votes had been counted.
Ballots counted over the weekend reversed that trend, assuring Jonsen of victory.
His 7,163-vote margin as of this morning, with approximately 19,000 outstanding ballots from across the county, assured Jonsen of victory. Jensen would need nearly 70% of the remaining ballots to edge past Jonsen. As of 1pm today, Jensen had not conceded the race.
The elections office reported Jonsen with 229,802 votes (50.8%) and Jensen with 222,639 votes (49.2%).
The two law enforcement veterans had topped two sheriff’s deputies in the June primary, in a reform-minded campaign that coincided with the civil misconduct trial of ex-Sheriff Laurie Smith. Smith chose not to seek re-election to a seventh term after votes of no confidence and a scathing grand jury report accusing her of misconduct.
Smith resigned Nov. 1 as the jury was deliberating an eventual guilty verdict in the non-criminal case.Smith's surprise announcement two months before the end of her sixth term left unclear what sentence could result from the verdict. As if Nov. 18, Smith still has not been sentenced.
Jonsen announced his retirement as Palo Alto chief of police in January when he announced he would seek election as sheriff. His retirement in June followed more than three decades in law enforcement, most of them in the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Office. After 26 years in Los Angeles, where he rose to the rank of captain, Jonsen was hired as police chief in Menlo Park in 2013. He served in that position until 2017, when he left to take the top police job in Palo Alto.
This year was Jensen’s second attempt at the sheriff’s post. He ran against his former boss, Smith, in 2014 and lost.
Acting Sheriff Ken Binder did not seek election.