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Candidate for San Diego County Sheriff leaves job, loses endorsement after transgender comments

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Claire Trageser
/
KPBS
John Hemmerling, a candidate for San Diego Sheriff, speaks in a park in Allied Gardens, May 13, 2022.

San Diego Sheriff Republican candidate John Hemmerling left his job as the chief criminal prosecutor in the City Attorney’s office this week after a video surfaced showing him making comments about where transgender women should use the bathroom.

Hemmerling said, however, in a statement to KPBS that he retired not because of the video, but to concentrate on his campaign.

“I retired so I could focus full time on my race for sheriff,” he wrote.

Hemmerling lost the endorsement of The San Diego Union-Tribune because of his comments. They were recorded by the online news outlet Times of San Diego at an April candidate’s forum in Ramona.

“The Board of Supervisors passed an ordinance the other day in the county that redefined what a woman is, where it included men,” Hemmerling said.

He was referring to an ordinance that defined women as including transgender women.

Hemmerling went on to say that the supervisors endorsed other candidates in the Sheriff’s race and that the supervisors have an agenda.

“They’re going to be asking them to enforce that out here, allow those men to go to the women’s bathrooms,” he said.

Hemmerling walked back his statements in an email to KPBS.

“I apologize to those who took my comments to imply criticism of anyone based on their sex or gender identity,” he wrote. “My sole intent was to express concern about the overbroad nature of the Board of Supervisors' recent ordinance that defines women. It's neither safe nor fair, nor does it provide equality. Hopefully, this will be the catalyst for a broader discussion of this complex and divisive issue.”

The City Attorney’s Office would not comment on the circumstances surrounding Hemmerling’s departure.