Christopher Shenfield and Juan Lopez are two names that won’t be on the June ballot but both men hope voters keep them in mind as very real — and very legitimate — prospects for judge and sheriff, respectively.
The write-in candidacy period ended Tuesday evening with Shenfield and Lopez the only new additions to the two races and, while not being on the official June 3 ballot is admittedly an uphill climb, each maintain they are the best man for the jobs they seek.
Shenfield, 51, threw his hat in the ring for San Mateo County Superior Court judge after learning of the two official candidates — Commissioner Susan Greenberg and criminal defense attorney Jeffrey Hayden — and seeing that others he’d hoped had run opted not to.
“I was a little disappointed that we didn’t have more choice and I’m essentially running as an outsider,” said Shenfield, who runs his own firm in Burlingame.
Shenfield said having never worked as a prosecutor or with the county’s private defender program, he is not beholden to either or to the current court.
Being in private practice, there is less inherent conflict because I don’t have these interests and can take a non-biased viewpoint,” Shenfield said.
With his civil background, Shenfield said he also brings expertise useful for a large amount of non-criminal matters on the docket.
Shenfield, a 14-year county resident with a bachelor’s degree in economics and history and a law degree from Tulane University, also speaks fluent Spanish and spent a year in Mexico teaching law at a university.
Like Hayden and Greenberg, Shenfield has favorable opinions of jail alternatives such as electronic home monitoring and expansion of special courts. He also agrees the stretched budget is the courts’ biggest challenge. He suggests changing the calendar hours to start at 8 a.m. or 8:30 a.m. rather than 9 a.m. and even past 5 p.m. to give the court more time. The courts should also modernize, using e-filing rather than relying on paper as it currently does, he said.
Unlike Shenfield looking from the outside, Lopez comes from the department which he hopes to lead. The 50-year-old Redwood City resident has spent 26 years with the Sheriff’s Office during which time he said he’s held a variety of hats including his current assignment driving prisoners to medical appointments. He also a master’s in emergency services administration from the California State University at Long Beach, he said.
He has management and budget experience from nine years managing a restaurant.
Lopez said he never planned to be anything other than an official candidate but missed the filing deadline by minutes after learning he needed signatures on top of the fee.
He is running now because “it was time to take this agency in a different direction and be proactive instead of reactive to a lot of different issues.”
Specifically, Lopez would like to reopen the psychiatric unit of the jail rather than lease bed space in Santa Clara County and the county hospital, use crime analysis of trends to get ahead of criminals, increase training beyond the Peace Officer Standards and Training minimum, re-establish the sex crimes unit which was disbanded in 2007 and beef up manpower in units like the civil enforcement bureau.
Lopez himself is at the top of overtime collectors in the department which he said points to the need to hire more employees rather than rely on existing staff.
Lopez would also like to revisit the new county jail, currently under construction, because he believes it is best located on the county campus rather than on the other side of Highway 101 in Redwood City.
“Why not make it convenient for all? It wouldn’t have taken anything away from the public because we wouldn’t have needed to find land,” he said.
Lopez said the loud public outcry by Redwood City residents against the downtown location could be quelled by more outreach and public meetings.
Although some Lopez proponents have cited incumbent Sheriff Greg Munks’ 2007 detainment in a Las Vegas brothel as a reason to vote for an opponent, the deputy himself said he is not campaigning on that platform.
“I really don’t have any firsthand knowledge of what occurred so I can’t comment. I’m trying to keep a clean campaign and I’m not here to make anybody look bad,” he said.
Besides, he added, if that was his point, he would have run against Munks in 2010.
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