The Santa Barbara County Deputy Sheriffs’ Association will not endorse either candidate running for county sheriff in the June 3 primary.
The association representing about 440 employees of the county Sheriff’s Department and District Attorney investigators unit voted 132-117 against making a formal endorsement, according to Todd Johnson, DSA secretary.
Electronic voting took place over four days beginning April 22, closing at midnight April 25.
The DSA historically endorses candidates for sheriff and other posts, but this year’s race is complicated by the fact that incumbent Sheriff Bill Brown is facing off with a fellow sheriff’s employee and dues-paying association member.
Sgt. Sandra Brown, a 17-year veteran with the department and current detective sergeant in the Special Investigations Bureau of the Coroner’s Office, is challenging her boss, of no relation, for the top post.
Johnson couldn’t say whether choosing between two colleagues was the reason for the non-endorsement, but added that it could have influenced matters.
“When you have a race between two internal people — two people from within the department running against each other — there’s just kind of, you don’t want to pick a side," he said.
“As far as the board is concerned, it wasn’t unexpected.”
The DSA hasn’t endorsed a sheriff candidate since 2006, when the organization backed then-incumbent Sheriff Jim Anderson. He lost to Bill Brown, then chief of the Lompoc Police Department.
No endorsement was made in 2010, when Brown ran unopposed.
Johnson said he assumed many members — many of whom are newer hires — were tired from working long hours and didn’t want to get involved in politics.
The DSA has focused attention on spreading the word to vote “no” on Measure M, the ballot initiative would require the county to place a priority on maintaining its infrastructure.
The sheriff told Noozhawk the DSA’s decision not to endorse was “understandable,” knowing members wouldn’t want to put the association in conflict with either candidate.
“Anytime you have a contested election with internal candidates ... it’s just kind of awkward for everybody involved,” Brown said, noting his many other endorsements from organizations and officials.
Reached for comment Wednesday, Sandra Brown said the vote shows a lack of confidence in the current sheriff because otherwise they would’ve overwhelmingly supported him.
“It just shows that they’re trying to take a safe position,” she said. “It would’ve been easier to endorse the incumbent.”
Brown said she hasn’t brought the campaign into the department, and is confident in the internal support of colleagues in spite of the vote.