Overview: SJC Sheriff unopposed for reelection

San Joaquin County Sheriff Pat Withrow will have a quiet election day as he runs unopposed for a second term.

After nearly two decades of tumult, the San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Office finds itself in a rare place of peace and tranquility. 

How do we know this to be true? Pat Withrow is running for reelection as San Joaquin County Sheriff without opposition.

“Believe me, I did not take it for granted. I waited till the last minute to see if anyone else had filed,” Withrow said. “Once I realized they hadn’t, I took a big sigh of relief. It’s very gratifying.”

No need for fundraisers. No volunteer coordination. No more knocking on doors.

Withrow may now focus only on continuing to lead a department of 850 that patrols 1,400 square miles of San Joaquin County and 900 miles of Delta waterways. The sheriff’s office also oversees both the jail in French Camp and the coroner’s office.

Third Time is a Charm

The June 7 primary is the third consecutive election cycle when Withrow’s name appears on the ballot. He ran unsuccessfully against then-sheriff Steve Moore in 2014 before unseating Moore in 2018. Withrow acknowledges knowing little about politics eight years ago. But he says he learned from that initial loss and focused on his message before the last election.

San Joaquin County Sheriff Pat Withrow will run for reelection unopposed. (COURTESY OF SAN JOAQUIN COUNTY SHERIFF DEPARTMENT)

“The first one laid the groundwork,” Withrow said. “Last time, the people responded.”

After four years, neither the county’s patrol nor correctional officers decided to back anyone against Withrow. They say  the sheriff followed through on stated commitments including a return to full staffing of sworn and civilian personnel, competitive salaries, and the development of units dealing with specific crime situations.

“It was a pretty easy decision. (Withrow’s) done a great job and everyone backs him,” said Ruben Rodriguez, president of the San Joaquin County Correctional Officers Association. “And if there is anybody who doesn’t like him, they couldn’t run against him and beat him.”

No challengers for the sheriff

All this is in sharp contrast to previous San Joaquin sheriffs’ races. They have been historically heated and confrontational.

“Shall we say they have had some not-so-friendly interchanges,” said Joel Blank, a Delta College political science professor who has overseen several candidate forums on the campus in conjunction with the local League of Women Voters. “That’s why it’s so intriguing (Withrow) is running unopposed this year.”

Blank said sheriff elections are interesting because mounting a campaign takes someone with the requisite skill and experience to succeed. Many, like Withrow, grow through the ranks and ultimately challenge their boss. That can create some intense work situations. 

It’s also different from a council or supervisor race, where almost any citizen can legitimately throw a hat in the ring.

Yet, even with the needed skills, anyone who decides to run for sheriff must develop a volunteer base, a donor base, and a campaign infrastructure. Plus, Blank said, any challenger probably needs a galvanizing issue to sway public opinion away from the incumbent.

Withrow has, so far, guided the department without any major problems. He said he’s proud of how sheriff’s personnel handled the Covid-19 pandemic, moments of civil unrest, and became more transparent during his first term.

“The best thing is how much trust we’ve gained from the public,” he said.

Running Unopposed 

Five additional races in the June 7 primary election have only one candidate:

  • Blanca Banuelos, Judge, Office 3
  • Lance Jacot, Judge, Office 6
  • Jayne Chong-Soon Lee, Judge, Office 7
  • Steve Bestolarides, Assessor/Recorder/County Clerk
  • Phonxay Keokham, Treasurer/Tax Collector

Rick Brewer is the President of Stocktonia’s Board of Trustees

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