This post has been updated.
Something certainly seems to have prompted many of San Diego’s most prominent Democratic politicians to quickly and publicly rally around a candidate to replace longtime San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore, who announced to the late last week that he wouldn’t be running again.
Just days after Gore’s announcement, his senior deputy, Kelly Martinez, announced that she had the support of Senate Speaker Pro Tem Toni Atkins, MP Lorena Gonzalez, San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria, President County Supervisory Board Nathan Fletcher, Representative Juan Vargas and many others. (This list even included Gore himself, although he had just told the Union-Tribune that he had no intention of publicly discussing who he supported.) Martinez was a registered Republican and transferred his registration with the Democratic Party in November 2020, a representative of the Registrar of Voters confirmed.
Almost none of the Democrats who announced their support for Martinez wanted to talk about their endorsement of an important public safety post. But one of them did, and their reasoning might provide a window into what prompted the quick decision: They worry about another likely candidate.
Vargas told me he thought Martinez would make a good sheriff, but said his approval was largely driven by a desire to ensure that Dave Myers, who has spent over 30 years with the sheriff’s department from San Diego, does not get the job. Myers ran unsuccessfully against Gore in 2018, but has yet to officially announce a race – he has said he will make an announcement in the coming weeks.
“I think he’s off balance,” Vargas said of Myers. During our conversation, Vargas also referred to Myers as an “idiot” and “totally insane”. “This is the last thing we need in one of these very important positions. I think everyone who knows him well disrespects him. I think it would be a disaster. I think it would be horrible for my community, ”Vargas said.
Vargas said he spoke with Martinez last week before deciding to approve his offer.
I asked him if he was concerned about data that showed the sheriff’s department stops and searches black drivers at a higher rate than their share of the population, and searches them at higher rates even though they are. less found with contraband, and if he believes Martinez has plans to address those results.
“This is the case not only here, but all over the United States of America. There is no department that does not have these results, ”said Vargas. “I approached it with her. I think she is sensitive to it.
Myers said he was surprised by Vargas’ comments and noted that as a member of city council Vargas appointed him to the board of directors of a youth empowerment program at Barrio Logan.
Myers said he was disappointed Vargas didn’t discuss the race with him before giving his approval or speaking publicly about him.
“If he wishes to sit down and talk with me, I would be more than happy to do so,” he said.
Vargas was the only elected official I contacted to discuss his decision making. No official is required to endorse this or any other race, but many who willingly and publicly approved of Martinez would not speak about what went into this decision and why it was made so quickly.
Pro Senate Speaker Tem Toni Atkins has pledged to make police reform a priority this year after a bill to remove the certification of officers who commit serious misconduct was not passed l ‘last year. When VOSD and other outlets across the state revealed that hundreds of police officers had themselves been convicted of crimes, California was one of five states that did not have a mechanism to remove their certification. Since then, another state has passed a law revoking agent certification, making California only one of the four. Another attempt at legislation is making its way through the legislature.
A spokeswoman for Atkins did not say whether the senator discussed decertification or other police reform measures with Martinez. She wouldn’t say at all if she met Martinez.
“Unfortunately, the Pro Tem is not available for comment,” Liz Crowley wrote in an email. She did not respond to follow-up questions.
Another member of the Legislative Assembly, MP Lorena Gonzalez, is the author of a measure to ban the use of kinetic projectiles and chemical agents of the police to disperse protests. Last year she served on a special legislative committee on police reform.
A spokeswoman for Gonzalez said he was unsure whether she asked Martinez about her position on the projectile bill or the sheriff’s department’s troubling record of releasing documents under SB 1421, and that Gonzalez was not available for comment.
Representatives for Mayor Todd Gloria, who in April presented a package of police reform proposals, did not answer questions about his endorsement of Martinez.
Update: This post has been updated to include confirmation from the Registrar of Voters that Kelly Martinez changed her party registration in November 2020.