Also serving the communities of De Luz, Rainbow, Camp Pendleton, Pala and Pauma

Martinez Leads in County Sheriff's Race

SAN DIEGO (CNS) - County Undersheriff Kelly Martinez tonight led the

primary race for sheriff with almost 40% percent of the vote, according to the

Registrar of Voters website.

With 137,174 votes (or 39.40%), Martinez was ahead of six other

candidates vying for sheriff in Tuesday's election, following the retirement

earlier this year of longtime sheriff's department head Bill Gore.

John Hemmerling was in second place, with 19.96% or 69,476 votes,

followed by Dave Myers, with 18.34% (or 63,847 votes).

John ``Gundo'' Gunderson earned 7.44% (or 25,887 votes); Juan Carlos

``Charlie'' Mercado garnered 7.27% (or 25,300 votes); Jonathan Peck was at

5.28% (18,374 votes); and Charles ``Chuck'' Battle stood at 2.33% (8,102


The election -- which will send the top two vote-getters to a November

runoff -- comes as the sheriff's department battles with staffing issues

and continued scrutiny over inmate deaths at its jail facilities.

A state Auditor's Office report indicated the death rate at San Diego

County jails was far higher than other large California counties and that the

situation ``raises concerns about underlying systemic issues with the Sheriff's

Department's policies and practices.''

Since Gore's retirement in February, Assistant Sheriff Anthony Ray has

served in an interim role, but he is not running in Tuesday's primary election.

Martinez is looking to be the department's first female sheriff,

following her appointment last year as the department's first female second-in-


Martinez, who has served within the sheriff's department since 1985,

has Gore's endorsement, as well as the backing of County Supervisor Nathan

Fletcher and San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria, among others.

She has touted recent work in the county to implement non-law

enforcement staffed teams to respond to people experiencing mental health

crises. Martinez also says she will invest in hiring additional medical staff

and mental health professionals for the county's jails, and will continue what

she says is a culture of transparency regarding in-custody deaths and body-worn

camera footage releases.

Myers, a retired sheriff's commander, says he is running to rebuild

community trust in the department. Among his stated priorities are a

restorative justice process aimed at preventing individuals from entering a

life of crime, addressing misconduct among the department's deputies, and

focusing on mental health, transparency and re-evaluating jail policies in

order to prevent more deaths among inmates.

Myers has the endorsements of several local Democratic organizations,

Congress members Mike Levin and Sara Jacobs, Assembly member Akilah Weber, and

five members of the San Diego City Council.

Hemmerling was most recently a prosecutor at the San Diego City

Attorney's Office, and also previously served as a San Diego police officer and

U.S. Marine.

Though Hemmerling told several media outlets that his retirement last

month from the City Attorney's Office was long in the works and intended to

allow him to focus on his campaign, he recently came under fire for comments he

made at a candidate forum in Ramona, which many viewed as anti-transgender.

Hemmerling insisted his comments were directed at a county ordinance, and were

not meant to criticize anyone based on their sex or gender identity.

Hemmerling says that if elected, he will focus on behavioral health

services for those incarcerated in county jails and diversion opportunities to

keep others out of custody. He says he will also focus on transparency within

the department in order to boost public trust.

Hemmerling is endorsed by the state and county's Republican Party,

former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, former City Attorney Jan Goldsmith and

retired San Diego Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman.

Battle is a retired sheriff's sergeant who also works as a private

investigator. Battle says his extensive law enforcement experience affords him

a unique view into what affects employee morale and retention, and that

equitable treatment of all sheriff's candidates will help the department

acquire and hold onto additional deputies. Regarding jail deaths, Battle

questions the comparisons drawn between San Diego County and other California

counties, but says he would call for a re-evaluation of each facility by jail


Mercado, a combat infantry veteran, says his agenda includes the

construction and operation of a modern mental health facility, improving

diversity within the department's ranks, and an open door policy as sheriff.

Peck is a California Highway Patrol officer who has worked in law

enforcement in both San Diego and Los Angeles counties. Peck refers to himself

as a constitutional candidate and has criticized restrictions implemented

during the COVID-19 pandemic. He says that if elected, he will ``swear

obedience and fidelity to the United States Constitution and the Constitution

of this state'' and not ``a governor, or a mayor, or a Board of Supervisors or

an unelected health department bureaucrat or any donors to my campaign.''

Gunderson has had a long career in law enforcement, including roles

within the San Diego Police Department and San Diego County District Attorney's

Office. Among his listed priorities are establishing transient tent housing for

the homeless and partnering with the Citizens' Law Enforcement Review Board to

ensure the department operates with transparency and community input.


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