Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Watch Live


The Hard Fought Race for San Diego Sheriff

The Hard Fought Race for San Diego Sheriff

GLORIA PENNER (Host): On Tuesday, San Diego County voters will decide on who will be sheriff for the next four years. The candidates are Jim Duffy, running as a sheriff lieutenant, retired undersheriff Jay LaSuer and appointed sheriff Bill Gore. But those titles don't tell the whole story of who these men are and what they've been doing. Michael Smolens, Politics Editor for the San Diego Union-Tribune joins me now with some analysis on the candidates. So, Michael, what experience does each candidate bring to the role of Sheriff of San Diego County?

MICHAEL SMOLENS (The San Diego Union-Tribune): Well one thing not lacking is experience in all three of these candidates. They all have long histories in law enforcement – varied histories. As you mentioned that Jay LaSuer was an undersheriff, he was also an elected member of the state assembly. Jim Duffy has been a longtime sheriff, now he's a lieutenant on leave because he's running. And Bill gore is very interesting because he's the appointed sheriff. Kind of groomed for the job, he came on as undersheriff under Bill Kolender the longtime sheriff, and then was appointed after Kolender stepped down. So there was a real push to make him the sheriff and a lot of the establishment wants to see him reelected. But his history is as an FBI agent. First as an agent sort of on the street involved in everything from hijacking to bank robberies, then to more of a bureaucrat. He was the head of the FBI office here in San Diego.

PENNER: Some of that came back to bite him during the campaign, didn’t it?


SMOLENS: Well it has. It’s interesting. You would think that with all this experience that they would be focusing on other issues. But his two opponents really are zeroing in on what they consider his lack of experience for this particular job. Not necessarily in law enforcement, but they were sheriffs and they think that his lack of street experience as a sheriff really hampers him in term of the understanding of the organization of how it works. You know he points out again as I said, that he wasn’t just a bureaucrat. He was a law enforcement agent on the street. And furthermore, he points out that he was undersheriff for several years before just being appointed last year. So he's been basically running the sheriff’s department to a large degree even when Kolender was there in the last couple of years.

PENNER: So here you have three relatively experienced people in law enforcement. What's the difference between them?

SMOLENS: Well there's some philosophic difference. And like I said, they do stress their differences in experience. LaSuer is – I don’t want to say the most interesting, but he's the most distinct in one way. He's an avout conservative, everybody’s trying to corner the toughest guy on the ballot market. He idolizes the Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio, who’s become a national figure because of his controversial policies of housing inmates in tents, putting them in pink underwear…

PENNER: Immigration too.

SMOLENS: And because of, you know, trying to crack down on immigration.


PENNER: Right.

SMOLENS: That’s another thing where LaSuer really comes from. He thinks the sheriff’s office department should take a much stronger role in dealing with illegal immigration. Duffy is – I don’t want to say in the center of this, but he thinks more needs to be done but he's not as hard on thinking the sheriff should jump into the illegal immigration situation. Some things are on the fringes. He still believes that that for now is a federal issue. What's interesting about him, he's got a lot of support from the Sheriffs’ Deputies Associations and Police Officers’ Association. And interesting political support – Brian Bilbrey a republican, and Bob Filner a democrat, both members of congress, support Jim Duffy. And of course he's the son of the late Sheriff John Duffy who was sheriff for many, many years so he's got good name identification.

PENNER: I also noticed that labor has endorsed Jim Duffy.

SMOLENS: Yes. As I said that…

PENNER: Why would labor even be involved in election?

SMOLENS: Well they – labor issues are pervasive throughout government. And certainly police officers and sheriffs, there are labor issues in terms of pay and benefits. And so if he's viewed as more sympathetic to those interests they're going to support him, which is why as I said the Sheriffs’ Deputies Association endorses him. And then just finally, Bill Gore is kind of the establishment choice. Bill Kolender the former sheriff supported him, or still supports him, and the County Board of Supervisors very strongly appointed him with just one no vote.

PENNER: And Bonnie Dumanis, the DA.

SMOLENS: She does, yes.

PENNER: She supports him too.

SMOLENS: And actually he… after Bill Gore went from the FBI… had the FBI office in San Diego, he did work for Bonnie Dumanis for a very short period and then was hired by Bill Kolender. So he's kind of had an interesting progression in San Diego law enforcement.

PENNER: But what are the issues that the voters should consider? Sure there are all these endorsements; everybody has the people behind them. But you know when you're a voter what is it should you be looking at?

SMOLENS: Well I think that looking at experience and you know they're going to – voters are going to make up their own mind whether this argument that Gore doesn’t have the proper experience or not. I mean clearly being an undersheriff as Jay LaSuer did he had your hands on a lot of controls there, as sheriff Gore does now. So those are key issues, but I think also other things come into play in a more philosophic sense. Particularly as I said with Jay LaSuer, who really is pushing the anti illegal immigration. He's very much pro gun and has been very critical f Gore in terms of what he thinks is a very discriminatory or discretionary process in granting concealed weapons permits, which is an issue that comes up periodically in San Diego. There's always disputes from or complaints from pro gun types that the San Diego sheriff is too limited in who gets in who gets the permits and who doesn’t.

PENNER: Well thank you very much, Michael Smolens.

SMOLENS: Thank you.