Santa Clara County voters on Tuesday were asked to choose a sheriff for the first time in 20 years, as well as a member of the five-member Board of Supervisors.
By 10 p.m. on election night, Susan Ellenberg was cautiously optimistic about her chances of becoming the next county supervisor, ready before the last ballot was counted to get to work.
On Thursday morning, Ellenberg, a San Jose Unified School District trustee, led her opponent, San Jose City Councilman Don Rocha by 15 points.
“My focus from the very beginning has been on being an effective advocate for families and children and I intend to focus on addressing chronic homelessness, mental and behavioral health care and early childhood, continuing Ken Yeager’s legacy in early childhood high quality care and education,” Ellenberg told San Jose Spotlight, while supporters enjoyed drinks and small bites at Hapa’s Brewing Company.
On Thursday, Rocha said he is “very happy this long road has come to an end.”
“I spent the day yesterday spending time with my family,” Rocha said. “I haven’t given any thought to the outcome, the whys or the hows. There is plenty of time for that over the next few weeks.”
The race between Rocha and Ellenberg got nasty. Someone purchased a domain similar to Rocha’s website that directed visitors to a page with negative information about the councilman. Ellenberg said that she had nothing to do with the page and was disappointed that Rocha accused her campaign of dirty campaigning.
Rocha’s platform has focussed on housing affordability and homelessness, traffic and public safety. Ellenberg focused on similar issues, including access to affordable health care and schools.
Ellenberg supporters were in high spirits Tuesday chowing down on a “Thanks for Voting” tiramisu cake. Chris Norwood, candidate for the Milpitas Unified School Board, came to congratulate Ellenberg’s lead and she thanked him for being one of her earliest endorsers.
“She has integrity, a commitment to education and the community and she’s an able listener,” said Norwood. “She saw what was missing and she went for it, unapologetically.”
Sheriff wins re-election
Sheriff Laurie Smith pulled ahead in her re-election bid with about 57 percent of the vote, while challenger John Hirokawa continued to hold on to about 43 percent.
The race was the first contested sheriff’s election for Santa Clara County in 20 years and saw Smith, a five-time incumbent, go up against Hirokawa, a former colleague and undersheriff.
Backed by the South Bay Labor Council and Santa Clara County firefighters, Smith was the first female sheriff in the state.
But Smith came under fire for accusations of sexual harassment in June, the murder of mentally ill inmate Michael Tyree three years ago and the death of inmate Isai Lopez last month — which was ruled a suicide.
Hirokawa’s platform focused on a desire to implement reforms within the department to address problems Smith has faced criticism for, such as reviewing “use of force” guidelines, making incarceration safer for inmates with mental disabilities and creating an independent oversight body to hold the Sheriff’s office accountable.
In a concession statement Wednesday, Hirokawa urged Smith to restore trust and transparency in her department and to make “desperately needed” reforms.
“I believe this campaign sent a clear message to the establishment and to the sheriff, that the people of Santa Clara County want her to restore trust, transparency and reform to the Sheriff’s Office,” Hirokawa said. “I am hopeful that she hears this message loud and clear that our community will not tolerate the current direction of the Sheriff’s Office and that change is required of them moving forward.”
Smith could not immediately be reached for comment.
Follow Victoria Kezra @VictoriaKezra on Twitter.