Palo Alto chief is top vote-getter in sheriff’s race, will go to November runoff

Daily Post Staff Writer

Palo Alto police Chief Bob Jonsen — who raised less money, earned fewer endorsements and entered the race later than his top opponent — had two distinct advantages in the race to replace Sheriff Laurie Smith: He never worked in her office, and he was the only candidate who has been a police chief. 

That experience carried him to a lead last night in front of retired Capt. Kevin Jensen, and the two will face off in November as voters pick a new sheriff for the first time since 1998. 

With just under half of the expected ballots counted, Jonsen had 34.5% of the vote, and Jensen had 29.4%. 

Rosen re-elected 

District Attorney Jeff Rosen is headed for his fourth term, as neither of his challengers could keep him below the 50% threshold to force a general election. 

Eshoo to face Kumar 

And as expected, Rep. Anna Eshoo is well in front of her seven challengers. Saratoga Councilman Rishi Kumar, who lost to Eshoo in 2020, was in second with 15.4% of the vote, so it looks like they’ll face off again in November. The top two candidates move on in a congressional race, regardless of whether one gets 50%. 

In the sheriff’s race, Sgt. Christine Nagaye had 19.1% of the vote, and Sgt. Sean Allen had 12.6%. All four candidates were running to reform the 

 announced rather than running amid allegations of corruption and mismanaging the jail. office in the wake of Smith’s retirement, which she 

Allen and Nagaye made the case that they worked on issues in the jail firsthand, so they know how to fix them. But ultimately, experience won out. 

Jonsen positioned himself as the only candidate who has led a department, and the only one who wasn’t part of the sheriff’s office during times of dysfunction. He jumped into the race in January and raised raised $47,359, while Jensen brought in $175,017. 


Jensen was also endorsed by a long list of police unions, including the unions for jail guards, the union for deputies and the Peace Officers Research Association, which represents over 75,000 officers. 

Jonsen was endorsed by four of the seven Palo Alto council members. 

 Jensen, who started his career as a sheriff’s deputy in 1985, lost to Smith in 2014 with 40% of the vote. 

In the race for District Attorney, two candidates challenged Rosen for the first time since he was elected in 2010. Former prosecutor Daniel Chung had 23.1% of the vote last night, and public defender Sajid Khan had 16.5%. 

Khan and Chung needed to keep Rosen below 50% of the vote for one of them to move on to the general election, but Rosen was at 60.4% last night. That leaves the sheriff’s race as the only countywide office up for election in November. 

Khan ran to the left of Rosen, arguing that Rosen was overly harsh and failed to address the root causes of crime. Chung ran with a chip on his shoulder because Rosen fired him last year, and he said Rosen was playing favorites and dropping the ball on prosecutions. 

Tripping alleged 

Although they are ideologically opposed, Chung and Khan teamed up to accuse Rosen of tripping Chung after a debate in May. Rosen said it was an accident and apologized. 

Seven men including three Democrats challenged Eshoo, who is 79 and has been in Congress since 1993. 

Palo Alto Councilman Greg Tanaka was in fifth with 6.1% of the vote, behind Eshoo, Kumar and two Republicans. Attorney Ajwang Rading, 30, was in sixth with 5.5%. 

Lieber leads state race 

Mountain View Councilwoman Sally Lieber looks like she will be elected to the Board of Equalization, which deals with the state’s tax administration. She’ll make $140,000 to be one of five board members. She said last night that she plans to keep her council seat, which doesn’t expire for another 2½ years, while she serves on the Board of Equalization. 

The Valley Water board’s attempt to extend term limits so that current board members can stay on, Measure A, is at a 53.7% “yes” vote.