The Sacramento County Sheriff’s race ain’t over

Sacramento County Sheriff's candidates Scott Jones and Milo Fitch. Not pictured: Donna Cox, who is currently ahead of Fitch.

This morning KCRA News called the Sacramento County Sheriff’s election for incumbent Scott Jones. Folks on the left are lamenting the loss. How could Sacramento County have gone so wrong? Why didn’t they focus on that race, the more winnable one, over the Sacramento County District Attorney battle? Now we won’t even see a November runoff.

Or will we?

Sheriff Scott Jones is sitting pretty against his challengers with 53 percent of the 114,278 votes counted so far.

If Jones manages to keep his numbers above 50 percent, he escapes the prospect of a November runoff against either Milo Fitch or Donna Cox. Will he pull it off? Perhaps, but there are a lot of votes left to count, and this is Sacramento County’s first run with the countywide vote-by-mail system.

There are a number of factors at play, and we’re not sure how many ballots remain. This morning a representative at the county said there were “a lot” more to count. He couldn’t go much further than that, other than mention that more numbers should be coming out some time Wednesday afternoon.

But let’s say that voter turnout ends up about the same as the last June sheriff’s race. How many votes would Scott Jones need to win?

In the June 2010 primary, 220,000 people voted in the sheriff’s election in which Jones defeated Jim Cooper.

In June 2014 , Jones ran unopposed. He took 156,000 votes, with 2,000 write-ins and 46,000 abstentions–rounding total ballots to 204,000. This year?

There’s no telling the final number. But let’s be conservative for this nationally famous race and say that a modest 204,000 people vote in the sheriff’s election this year. What needs to happen to force a runoff?

Basically, in the next 90,000 ballots cast in the race, Jones would need to take 45 percent or fewer votes. Sounds a little out there with him sitting at 53 percent, right? Not so fast. Between last night’s initial reporting just after 8 p.m. and the latest iteration posted at 2:30 a.m., Jones took just 48 percent of the votes. Dropping to 45 percent of the next 90,000 or so ballots could feel like a long shot.

But remember, we have no idea where the uncounted ballots are coming from (out in the county? central city?), or how many are left. We also have never had a county-wide mail-in election before.

So let’s sit tight on this one.


The higher the voter turnout, the better for the sheriff’s challengers. Don’t hang it up just yet.


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Dave Kempa
Editor at VOICES: River City
Dave Kempa is the founder and editor of VOICES: River City.