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Election: Deputy challenges incumbent sheriff in write-in campaign

Greg Munks ran unopposed for re-election as San Mateo County sheriff in 2010. This time around, while the ballot for the June 3 election again lists Mr. Munks as the only candidate, he does have an opponent.

Deputy Juan Lopez, a 26-year veteran in the Sheriff's Office, is running a write-in campaign to replace his boss. Some of his priorities: more in-depth and varied training for deputies, reconstituting the sex-crimes unit, and a "proactive" approach to preventing crime.


San Mateo County Deputy Sheriff Juan P. Lopez

San Mateo County Sheriff Greg Munks

On his website, Mr. Lopez writes that he "will restore integrity to the leadership of the Office of Sheriff," that Mr. Munks "is not the person to lead the law enforcement program," and that Mr. Lopez will be a leader that voters can "respect and trust."

In April 2007, Mr. Munks and Undersheriff Carlos Bolanos were detained and questioned by police after they were found on the premises of a brothel located in an unmarked house in a residential neighborhood of Las Vegas. The raid was part of a federal initiative known as Operation Dollhouse. Did Mr. Lopez use the words "integrity," "respect" and "trust" in reference to Operation Dollhouse?

"You know, I really can't say anything about that," he said. "I wasn't there and I don't have first-hand knowledge." Then why use those words? They are ways of expressing concerns about transparency over a construction project, Mr. Lopez said. The public and deputies were not informed, he said, of a recent plan to demolish the motor pool and build new headquarters for the patrol divisions, the Office of Emergency Services and public information services.

A county spokesman said the Board of Supervisors had held a public hearing on the new structure in August 2013 and approved the $16.25 million in funding for the building in September.

Deputy Lopez said he is currently assigned to driving prisoners to and from court and medical appointments. "I have worked almost every division, position and assignment in this organization," he added in an email. "From that experience, I have a keen understanding of what it takes to be successful in those positions, to move the organization forward and a real appreciation for the men and women who do the job."

Asked about his management experience, Mr. Lopez cited a restaurant he once managed where his responsibilities included overseeing employees, bank accounts, supplies and "the day-to-day routines of business," he said. "I tried to reach a happy medium for everyone."

Mr. Munks is away and chose not to comment on Mr. Lopez's priorities, but did email a statement about his candidacy. "I am honored to be running alone on the ballot again which I believe is an acknowledgment of the progress and fine work that we have accomplished on behalf of our community," he wrote. "I'm pleased to be able to stay focused on the challenges ahead and continue my efforts to make San Mateo County a safe place to live and work."

On the issues

Enter the phrase "Juan Lopez for sheriff" in a web search engine and the first hit is Mr. Lopez's campaign site, which includes a page of priorities should he be elected.

A similar search for Mr. Munks turns up plenty of hits, but none about his 2014 candidacy and priorities for the next four years. A search of SmartVoter.org, the election-information site maintained by the League of Women Voters, showed nothing for either man.

Among Mr. Lopez's priorities:

■ The Sheriff's Office would employ a "proactive" approach to crime prevention, including crime-trend analysis to prepare deputies and get ahead of criminals, and the vigorous encouragement of neighborhood watch programs.

■ Deputies would have more in-depth and varied training opportunities -- gang, robbery and fraud case training, for example -- which go beyond what he described as the "bare minimums" of CPR and how to "take people down." Outside training is available, he said, but deputies are not reimbursed for expenses.

■ The sex-crimes unit would be reconstituted. The Sheriff's Office folded that specialty into the major-crimes unit in 2007, in part due to funding cuts, but a fully staffed sex-crimes unit is still needed, Mr. Lopez said. The cases are "very labor intensive," he said. "Unfortunately, it affects you in many ways. You go home after a non-stop day, you don't sleep, you sit there and try to unwind. ... I was assigned to it and I just couldn't keep up."

The rate of sex crimes since 2007 "surely have grown," he added. The Sheriff's Office did not respond to inquiries about sex-crime trends in the county.

How would he pay for these changes? "It can be done by redistributing funds, I'm sure," Mr. Lopez said.

Asked by email to comment on these priorities, Mr. Munks did not respond.

A write-in campaign

Mr. Lopez, who has not run for office before, told the Almanac that he wanted to have his name on the ballot, but that complications arose, in part because he waited until the last day and the last hour of the candidate filing period to complete his paperwork.

At the counter at the Elections Office in San Mateo at about 4:10 p.m. on March 7, he said he learned for the first time that he needed the signatures of at least 20 registered voters on his nomination papers. He rushed out and got 20 signatures, but a traffic jam prevented him from getting back to the Elections Office in time to meet the 5 p.m. deadline, he said.

Why did he wait so long? "I was pretty much waiting until the end so I could file without creating a problem at work," he said. What might have happened at work? "I have no idea and I didn't want to take any chances," he said. In the weeks since, he said he has heard nothing untoward about his candidacy.

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Juan P. Lopez: Experience: 26 years in the San Mateo County Sheriff's Office. Education: Associate's degree in university studies from Canada College in Woodside; bachelor's degree in vocational education and master's degree in emergency services administration from California State University, Long Beach. More information: electjuan.com

Gregory Munks: Experience: 30 years in law enforcement, including 13 years as undersheriff in San Mateo County and eight as sheriff. Education: Bachelor's degree in business administration from Menlo College; master's degree in business administration from Golden Gate University.

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