By Amelia Cass and Rebecca Dean

On Sunday, January 9th, 2022, Indivisible Livermore hosted a forum of the three candidates in the 2022 Primary Election for Alameda County Sheriff-Coroner. Indivisible East Bay, The Independent, Livermore Vine, and Pleasanton Weekly all co-sponsored the forum. If you missed it, you can watch the forum on YouTube here. The forum lasted from 1:30PM to 3:45PM. 

The three candidates are Gregory Ahern, the current Sheriff-Coroner, Yesenia Sanchez, Division Commander of the Santa Rita Jail, and JoAnn Walker, CSU-EB instructor and veteran SFPD officer. 

All in all, we’re excited to see two credible challengers to Sheriff Ahern. This race was uncontested in 2006, 2010, 2014, and 2018. Voters have a choice in 2022- that’s democracy at work!

Candidates’ answers to key questions are summarized here.

Ahern, who has been sheriff since 2006, is the most experienced candidate in the race. His responses, particularly on his support for re-entry and jail mental health services, were surprisingly progressive given his prior record. However, his answers, particularly on violence prevention, focused largely on what the sheriff’s department has done so far.  IEB endorsed a vote of no confidence in his last (uncontested) election in 2018, and we haven’t seen the change we’d need to revisit this decision. 

Sanchez has some notable endorsements (she broke the news of Mayor Schaaf’s endorsement during the forum) and her rare move to challenge an incumbent sheriff suggests a commitment to change. We were glad to hear that she welcomes sheriff oversight and jail-related transparency efforts, and is committed to funding programs to improve community services and address root causes of crime. However, we would have liked to hear more details about her plans to address the concerning conditions at the jail, which have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Walker’s performance was consistent with her reputation as the progressive reformer in the race. Her strong stance against solitary confinement and commitment to transparency and establishing community trust were the most consistent with IEB’s values out of the three candidates. However, her answers were principled but at times quite general, which left us wanting to hear more about paths within the system to make her ideals a reality.

Candidates’ answers to key questions are summarized here.

The primary election will take place June 7th, 2022. 

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