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Sheriff Moore heading for 3rd term

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POSTED June 4, 2014 1:36 a.m.

Two term San Joaquin County Sheriff Steve Moore held the early lead Tuesday night and appears to be headed towards another four years as San Joaquin County’s top cop. 

Moore, who was first elected by San Joaquin County voters in 2006, led challenger Pat Withrow by a 17 percent margin, 58 percent to 41 percent. With 93 of the county’s 501 precincts reporting as of 10:45 p.m., 18.6 percent of the total ballots cast had been accounted for. 

Lower voter turnout and a high number of absentee ballots – many of which are dropped off at polling places the day of the election – could change the numbers over the course of the next 24 hours, but won’t likely take away the margin in what quickly became one of the most contentious races in the Northern San Joaquin Valley. 

“It’s very gratifying and I’m appreciative of the voters and the support that they’ve shown,” Moore said. “We’re still waiting on the second group of numbers to come back – it’s my understanding that it was the absentee ballots released first so this next group will be big.”

Asked about whether getting the thumbs up for the third time by the voters of San Joaquin County, Moore – who was watching returns with close friends at a private residence – said it’s indescribable. 

“No sir, there isn’t anything else that’s like it,” he said. “It’s extremely gratifying and I consider it a privilege, and if and when this becomes final I will do it with all of the rigor and the passion that I possess.”

Moore, a jailer who worked his way through the administrative ranks and is the only person ever to make the rank of captain without ever wrapping his fingers around a patrol car steering wheel, was faced with not only a challenge by one of his top brass but also how had to figure out how to deal with California’s ever-changing custody situation and how best to protect the public while following the letter of the law. 

It wasn’t always easy. Withrow’s campaign released videos that accused Moore of administering policies that allowed criminals to walk right out the front door of the San Joaquin County Jail, and criticized him for not doing more with the $80 million he secured to build a new facility that would the number of beds – essentially letting it all just fade away. 

And things took an even nastier turn when both candidates were asked whether they’d open their personnel files to members of the media during a public forum – starting a back-and-forth that led to Undersheriff John Picone pointing out that Withrow wasn’t being completely forthcoming about the discipline that was handed down for a scandal that revolved around taking days off of work and not submitting the proper paperwork to superiors. 

Moore was elected in November of 2006 as the first elected Sheriff in San Joaquin County since Baxter Dunn resigned in disgrace for a countywide corruption scandal that made national news. Moore was partway through his second term when in 2011 Governor Jerry Brown authorized Assembly Bills 109 and 117 – a public safety realignment overhaul that would streamline the way that offenders are processed through the criminal justice system in California. With the threat of the Department of Justice stepping in and releasing prisoners outright to comply with a United States Supreme Court ruling that called California’s overcrowded prisons “unconstitutional” the state decided that non-violent and non-sexual offenders would be opted out for supervised release while state inmates serving short sentences would able to do so at county jails rather than in state prison. 

With  a transition team that included the District Attorney (who supported Moore in the election), the Chief Probation Officer and the County Administrator, the process has been successful despite how his opponent might have portrayed it in the press. 

 “We’ve got a long ways to go, but we’re thinking that the numbers are going to change in our favor,” Withrow said. “We got our message out to the people of San Joaquin County and they really seemed to respond to it. We’ll just focus on the percentages and hopefully creep back up and see where things are when more of these ballots come in and start getting counted. 

“It was a pleasure to get out there and meet as people as we did during this campaign and to receive the kind of support that we have received. I just want to thank everybody that was a part of that, but we’ve still got a long ways to go.”

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