Santa Clara County Sheriff Outmaneuvers Re-Election Challenger for Key Endorsement

The South Bay Labor Council (SBLC) has unveiled a list of preferred candidates in some of the more consequential local races. Don Rocha and Dominic Caserta split an endorsement in the Santa Clara County supervisor’s race. Labor’s picks in San Jose: Vice Mayor Magdalena Carrasco, downtown Councilman Raul Peralez, Shay Franco-Clausen and Maya Esparza.

But unlike for the other races, SBLC made no public announcement about the contest between five-term Sheriff Laurie Smith and her former second-in-command, retired Undersheriff John Hirokawa. Sources say that’s because labor leaders were none too thrilled with delegates’ vote for a shared endorsement, which meant affiliate unions could make their own decision about whom to back but that neither candidate would benefit from SBLC’s unlimited spending power in the June 5 race.

But the only union with the power to overturn the decision was the one with the most members—SEIU Local 521. And that’s exactly what happened. About a dozen SEIU reps interviewed the candidates on Friday. A few days later, the union then announced its sole endorsement for Smith, making the bid to unseat her that much more of an uphill battle.

It wasn’t a membership vote, as Hirokawa’s camp was quick to point out before going so far as to accuse the sheriff of “1990s era bullying tactics.”

“When you have someone who’s been that entangled in the political scene here for 20 years, you know that’s because they’re accustomed to making these types of tradeoffs,” Hirokawa campaign manager Jeffrey Cardenas says.

Smith didn’t return Fly’s requests for comment. The most recent news from the incumbent’s side came in a press release last week about her getting official backing from the union repping her jail deputies.

The Santa Clara County Correctional Peace Officers’ Association (CPOA) endorsement was the result of a member poll in which only 48 percent supported Smith’s re-election—a tepid turnout but still almost double what Hirokawa got.

CPOA President Lt. Amy Le defends the process as “thoughtful and diligent.”

Hirokawa says he’s unsurprised by the CPOA’s choice.

“So with the correctional union, we do have a philosophical difference,” he says. “I am pro-independent oversight and no on Tasers in the jails, which they feel are necessary.”

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  1. Smith needs to go before another Officer gets beaten half to death, or someone else dies in the jail. Her behavior on the Blue Ribbon Commission was disgusting.

  2. Last Sunday Jose Salcido, 32-year Sheriff deputy and former president of the Deputy Sheriff’s Association, announced his candidacy for Sheriff. He believes in better rehabilitation programs for inmates starting as soon as they enter jail in preparation for their eventual release into society. Mr. Salcido is currently advisor to Mayor Liccardo and has served on many community boards.

    • Susan Price-Jang- BOS Cindy Chavez probably had something to do with this vote. Originally, none of the Unions were going to endorse Smith. They are thicker than thieves, excuse the pun.

      Jose doesn’t work for the Mayor. He works for Council Member Khamis. Law enforcement doesn’t support Jose because he worked for Reed, and Khamis, who bashed cops in his first year of office. Since Jose doesn’t have the support of law wnforcement, he would never succeed as Sheriff.

      Jose is a nice guy but would do better as the Undersheriiff. He has some great ideas, but doesn’t have what it takes to be Sheriff.

      Smith needs to go. Law enforcement doesn’t support her, and the Blue Ribbon Commission wanted the jails taken away from her. I agree with them that too much has happened under her watch, or I should say lack of.

      Joe La Jeunesse has only served in the courts and knows nothing about what being Sheriff requires. He keeps saying that because he served in the military, that he is qualified. I disagree.

      Martin Monica, no.

      Joe Lopez is dropping out of the race, or so I’ve heard.

      John Hirokawa seems like the best choice. He’s had a lot of experience but was under Smith’s thumb, so he had to follow her directives, like it or not, and he didn’t like it, so he retired. He doesn’t speak well in public, he’s very intellectual, but he is the most qualified.

      • Carl, interesting though that you believe Hirokawa would be better than Smith. They seem to be the same if, not maybe he is even worse as he was in charge of the jails and admitted that it was his fault Michael Tyree was murdered then he later went on record saying he needs to rethink his leadership. He does not seem to be the most qualified at all unless you enjoy inmate killings that were under his watch. I will vote against Hirokawa because I do not support murders in the jails.

  3. SEIU deserves no respect as their dues paying members are not allowed to vote, comment, or disagree with endorsements made by a select few of SEIU company bureaucrats who have no knowledge of local issues. Even AFL-CIO dumped their affiliation with SEIU many years ago stating the service union did not represent the interests of their membership. Career politicians who embrace endorsements by rogue service employee unions such as SEIU have no morale convictions and sadly will grasp at any straw for an endorsement. Ms. Smith is a perfect example of a career politician clinging to a pitiful career and no respect from law enforcement managers or employees. What a pity!

    • > Even AFL-CIO dumped their affiliation with SEIU many years ago stating the service union did not represent the interests of their membership.

      What a strange world we live in!

      Left-wing SEIU guys endorsing “Republican” gal Laurie Smith for Sheriff?

      Maybe it’s just “diversity”.

      • SAN JOSE OUTSIDE THE BUBBLE- “Maybe it’s just “diversity”. No, it’s political pressure from voices of the past….

    • What a pity!

      Very true. Don’t know if all this is true, but what I was told is that BOS Chavez had a hand in this vote because my friends in SEIU told me that they weren’t going to endorse Smith. They got a lot of pressure to endorse Smith, even though they didn’t want to, so this endorsement is a sham.

      • Chavez undoubtedly had her hand in it same as the last time. SBLC is still run by disbarred lawyer, Ben Field, who is indebted to Chavez and Smith for his job and any credibility he has after he was caught lying and withholding evidence as a Deputy District Attorney (funny he doesn’t mention that part in his SBLC profile).

        Neither the SBLC or the SEIU union leadership can offer an honest endorsement in this case.

  4. What is with the editor changing the title of the article? Completely unprofessional to intervene with a reporter’s article in a way that shifts the narrative.

  5. What’s up with Joe Lajeunesse? He’s on Facebook, but why isn’t he out there getting involved, and doing things to support the folks of his community like the other candidates are? Look at his “” page, not one event or picture of him doing anything. His Facebook page, well he had one event at a bar back in November, but that was to raise money for his campaign. What’s up with all the military pictures? Why are there no pictures of him in his deputy sheriff’s uniform? He is aware that he is running for Sheriff, right? If he’s been a deputy sheriff for as long as he has been, why not one picture of him in his deputy sheriff’s uniform? He seems to be banking on his military experience to qualify him for the job. Why not bank on the experience with the sheriffs department? He should have a ton with as long as he’s been employed by the sheriffs department. I think this guy is running for Sheriff for all the wrong reasons. I truly believe he is doing it because he has a “major” grudge against the incumbent, the DSA, and all the folks he’s publically thrown under the bus. Smear campaigns don’t gain votes or respect from decent people. If these aren’t the reasons he’s running for sheriff, well then I hope he proves me wrong. This guy needs to come out from behind his computer, stop the mess talking, and SHOW the folks of Santa Clara County why he deserves to be Sheriff.

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