Bolanos, the sheriff since he was appointed by a majority on the Board of Supervisors in July 2016, includes as his highest priorities: keeping the county safe, helping jail inmates prepare for a successful transition back into society, and maintaining the cooperative relationships with other first-responder agencies in the county.
Melville's top issues are ending human sex trafficking, respecting immigrant rights in dealing with immigration enforcement agents in a sanctuary state, and recruiting and retaining qualified deputies.
The two candidates agree frequently, including on the importance of equal opportunities for women, the need for more face-to-face visiting areas in the women's jail, the rationale for approving permits to carry concealed weapons, voting rights for eligible inmates and calls to reform of the money bail system.
As for challenging an incumbent, Melville said he believes that challengers "feel the incumbent is entrenched and can't be beat."
""The county machine is a well-oiled machine," he said. Melville's website lists nine endorsements. "The political machine in this county is pretty tough to crack."
An incident that continues to dog Bolanos occurred in 2007, when he and then-sheriff Greg Munks were detained by Las Vegas police in connection with an FBI sting operation involving illegal brothels. Police found Munks inside a brothel. Bolanos told The Almanac that he did not enter the brothel. Both men were detained, but neither was charged with a crime. Bolanos was serving as undersheriff at the time.
When he was president of the deputies union, Puschendorf said, he was "directly ordered" not to talk about Las Vegas or to mention it.
Melville, recalling the appointment that gave Bolanos incumbency after Munks' retirement, noted a letter by Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough, and Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Menlo Park, encouraging the supervisors to seek more candidates, saying that they knew of people willing to apply, and arguing that Bolanos' incumbency would leave competitors "severely disadvantaged" in an election.
"Her comments were right on the money," Melville said of Speier.
Bolanos, with a list of 479 endorsements that includes many Peninsula elected officials, said he disagreed with Melville's characterization. "I believe that they are endorsing the person they feel is the most qualified and experienced to be sheriff," he said.
Melville "has had every opportunity to go out and get endorsements if he chooses to and if people are willing to endorse him," Bolanos said.
Heinz Puschendorf, a write-in candidate for sheriff, is a full-time deputy with 21 years of service with the Sheriff's Office, and the former president of and negotiator for the union representing deputies.
Puschendorf said the April 25 League of Women Voters forum between Melville and Bolanos left him feeling embarrassed, attributing his embarrassment to candidate responses to questions that, from the perspective of a Sheriff's Office insider, could have been much more forthcoming.
"Watching that debate made me sick to my stomach," he said. Of particular concern, he added, was what he considered an intimidating line of Sheriff's Office executives seated along a wall and positioned to face Melville. Puschendorf, like Melville, said he is frustrated with sheriff's races that have been uncontested. He said he will have achieved something if people vote for anyone but the incumbent. He wants voters who are accustomed to abstaining in off-year elections to "break the habit," he said.
"I think the people deserve (an election) and I want to make San Mateo County stronger, better," Puschendorf said.
Among his concerns is what he calls the abuse of mandatory overtime, and the under-staffing of the property crime unit and over-staffing of the homicide unit.
Puschendorf is on disability as a result of injuries sustained in 2014 in an encounter with a disruptive inmate in the county jail, he said. His name remains on the employee roster, but he is not being paid, he said.
The Sheriff's Office has not yet responded to a request for comment.
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