Santa Clara County sheriff candidate secures key endorsement
Kevin Jensen, a retired captain with the Santa Clara County Sheriff's Office, is running to replace Laurie Smith. Photo courtesy of Kevin Jensen.

A contender for the top law enforcement job in Santa Clara County has won a coveted endorsement.

The Deputy Sheriffs’ Association of Santa Clara County is throwing its support behind retired sheriff Capt. Kevin Jensen, who announced his run for sheriff last September. The association’s members voted overwhelmingly to support endorsing him.

“We know Kevin Jensen as a person and we understand his leadership qualities,” Ryan Elder, president of the association, told San José Spotlight. “We know he’s the best candidate to address these issues (in the office).”

This is the organization’s third time endorsing an opponent of incumbent Laurie Smith, who has served as head of the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office since 1998. Smith has not filed papers for reelection or said publicly whether she intends to run. She has spent months fending off attacks from the Board of Supervisors, which voted no confidence in her leadership. She is also facing a civil grand jury accusation for corrupt misconduct and a state attorney general investigation into possible civil rights violations in the county jail.

“An experienced set of fresh eyes is going to help pave the way toward putting an appropriate spotlight on transparency, and building trust within the community,” Elder said.

Political action committees for the Deputy Sheriffs’ Association and the Santa Clara County Correctional Peace Officers Association supported Jensen’s campaign when he ran against Smith in 2014. Jensen lost that election, but he believes the time is right for a new run and cites the support from the association.

“I think it’s important to know the men and women who have this difficult job in difficult times are this much behind a candidate,” Jensen told San José Spotlight. “And it’s not because I can give them any promotions or instantly solve their problems—it’s because I’ve earned their trust over a long period of time.”

Jensen has also received endorsements from retired county supervisor Blanca Alvarado, Gilroy Mayor Marie Blankley, Milpitas Mayor Rich Tran and former sheriff Robert Winter. He’s raised $72,398 through campaign donations and a loan.

Jensen started working as a deputy at Elmwood Correctional Facility in 1985. He served various roles for the next three decades, including as an assistant chief in the department of corrections and as jail administration commander. He became captain in 2004 and retired in 2013.

If elected, Jensen said he will focus on addressing staffing and morale decline in the sheriff’s office, including the correctional facilities. He also plans to improve the treatment for mentally ill inmates and overall conditions in the jail system.

“There are some very strong advocates for changes in the jail system, and I’m among them,” Jensen said. “I just want to do it within reason, getting mental health help we need on the front end, and also providing for those people who have to be in the jails.”

Jensen is competing with three other candidates: sheriff Sgt. Christine Nagaye, Palo Alto Police Chief Robert Jonsen and sheriff Sgt. Sean Allen.

Contact Eli Wolfe at [email protected] or @EliWolfe4 on Twitter. 

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