A recent survey of Santa Clara County voters reveals some surprising findings about this year’s race for county sheriff. Results suggest Sheriff Laurie Smith might be in for a tough fight this June.
The telephone survey, conducted by Probolsky Research from March 19 to 23, polled a random sample of 400 likely voters for the county’s June 3 primary election. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.8 percent.
Pollsters were shocked to discover that 16 years in office have done little to boost name recognition for the four-time incumbent, with just 37 percent of respondents having heard of her. By contrast, 12 percent of those polled knew of challenger Kevin Jensen, despite his relatively recent entry into the political arena.
When respondents were asked which candidate they would select if the election were held today, 39 percent chose Smith, with only 12 percent of this group indicating firm support. This figure stands in stark contrast to the results of a similar survey released earlier in the year by a Smith enthusiast that indicated 49 percent of voters would support the incumbent.
In a further blow to Smith’s bid, the percentage of respondents who would vote in her favor plummeted to 20 percent once they were informed of her mishandling of high-profile sexual assault, rape and murder cases and her apparent favoritism of pro football player Aldon Smith while he was under investigation on weapons and DUI charges.
Support for Jensen, a retired Santa Clara County sheriff’s captain, jumped from an initial 13 percent to 53 percent once voters were informed that Jensen, a graduate of the FBI’s National Academy, has earned the near universal support of local law enforcement.
As a whole, the results of the more recent study seem to underscore the message law enforcement organizations have been long been advocating about the importance of a change in leadership at the sheriff’s department.
“We are pleased to see that when our citizens are made aware of the kinds of missteps that have become all too common by a bloated, entrenched leadership, they believe it’s time for a change,” said Don Morrissey, president of the Deputy Sheriffs’ Association of Santa Clara County.
“We’ve been in the trenches with Capt. Jensen for years and we put our faith in him. Now it appears the public is ready to do the same,” added Lance Scimeca, president of the Santa Clara County Correctional Peace Officers’ Association.