Jones wins sheriff’s race

File photo. Scott Jones

The runoff race for Sacramento County Sheriff finally ended, 14 days after Election Day.

Candidate and Elk Grove City Council Member Jim Cooper conceded to his opponent Scott Jones on Nov. 15 after the county election staff released the latest vote tally in the long-undecided contest that ended with a virtual tie.

Jones took 50 percent of the vote, while Cooper had 49 percent. More than 5,000 votes separated them after all of the mailed-in and provisional ballots from California Senate District 1 were counted on Nov. 15.

“We ran a hell of a race, and we have a lot to be proud of,” Cooper said, mentioning that hundreds of volunteers worked for his campaign.

Jones was attending a law enforcement technology conference in southern California when he interviewed with Herburger Publications.

“During Election Night, I felt confident it would happen, but it’s been a long process,” he said about his victory. “I’m ready to open the next chapter.”

Cooper’s term in the District 1 seat of the Elk Grove City Council expires in 2012. He said he would run for re-election, adding that he enjoys serving on the council.

“I couldn’t pick a better place to live and raise my family,” he said about Elk Grove.

As sheriff, Jones said he wants to regionally enhance a “business-friendly” climate that will help reduce crime and enable economic recovery, both of which will benefit Elk Grove.

He also desires to reopen the sheriff’s department service centers in Wilton and the Delta area that were closed to the public this year due to budget cuts.

“Those particular areas are often the citizens’ only connection with the sheriff’s department,” Jones said.

The new sheriff will lead an agency that suffered a $55 million budget deficit earlier this year, and laid off more than 120 deputies last year.

Cooper said that he is ready to “roll up his sleeves” to help turn the sheriff’s department around with the new sheriff. He said he could use his budgetary skills from his experiences on the city council and the grant-writing unit of the sheriff’s department to help his financially troubled agency.

Cooper and Jones are both captains in the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department. Jones previously commanded the Sacramento County Main Jail while Cooper manages his agency’s High Tech Crimes Unit that cracks down on Internet crimes and child pornography.

Jones is succeeding Sheriff John McGinness, who endorsed him during the race and often voiced his support on the radio.

“Captain Scott Jones is the only one with the leadership skills, vision and personal integrity to continue the Sheriff’s Department’s proud record of protecting Sacramento County,” McGinness wrote in an opinion piece that ran in the Citizen.

Cooper noted the challenge of running against a sheriff-supported opponent, saying, “I was running against John and Scott.”

But he mentioned he is not complaining and said, “It is what it is.”

The candidates’ near-tie ends a long contest that lasted more than a year and often drew controversy.

Opinions were divided within the sheriff’s department about both candidates. While McGinness endorsed Jones, former Sheriff Lou Blanas backed Cooper. The Sacramento County Deputy Sheriffs’ Association also supported Cooper.

Jones’ opposition brought up a 2002 case where the FBI investigated and cleared Jones after he worked as an attorney in an office space near a bail bonds company that stole a $3.8 million U.S. Treasury check.

Jones described the race as a “fascinating journey” for him as a law enforcement officer entering the political world.

He said that he plans to meet with the executive staff of the sheriff’s department and lay out his vision and expectations.

“There are things I liked about it and some things I didn’t like about it,” he said about the race. “At the end of the day, (Cooper) and I are going to work together just fine.”