San Diego County Undersheriff Kelly Martinez and former San Diego City prosecutor John Hemmerling are the top two candidates for Sheriff and will compete in the November runoff.
Martinez leads the June primary election results with 144,711 votes, securing a spot in the runoff race. Hemmerling follows with 77,577 votes.
Martine and Hemmerling were among five others, including Dave Myers, John Gunderson, Juan Carlos Mercado, Jonathan Peck, and Charles Battle to succeed longtime Sheriff's department head Bill Gore, who retired earlier this year.
The election comes as the sheriff’s department faced scrutiny from a state Auditor’s Office report in February 2022, which indicated the death rate and San Diego County jails are much higher than any other county in California.
The audit was released on Gore’s final day in office. Assistant Sheriff Anthony Ray has served in an interim role, but he is not running for the position.
Martinez was appointed last year as the department’s first female second-in-command and seeks to be the department’s first female Sheriff. She has served the Sheriff’s department since 1985 and has Gore's endorsement, as well as the backing of County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher and San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria, among others.
She has worked with the County to implement Mobile Crisis Response Teams, a non-law-enforcement team that responds to and deals with mental health calls. Law enforcement is used when appropriate.
In her campaign, Martinez said she will invest in hiring additional medical staff and mental health professionals for the county's jails. Other priorities include establishing a culture of transparency regarding in-custody deaths and body-worn camera footage releases.
As the most recent prosecutor at the San Diego City Attorney's Office, Hemmerling also previously served as a San Diego police officer and U.S. Marine. He retired from the City Attorney’s office to focus on his campaign.
His priorities include focusing on behavioral health services for those incarcerated in county jails and diversion opportunities to keep others out of custody. He also plans to focus on transparency within the department.
The state and county’s Republican Party endorsed Hemmerling, along with former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, former City Attorney Jan Goldsmith, and retired San Diego Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman.
The San Diego County Registrar expects to provide another update on June 9 by 5 p.m