This is a good story about the sheriff’s race. I’m always very happy to see Kelly Thornton’s byline emerge on our site.

If you care about who runs our region, pay attention to this because the sheriff is one of the few people elected by the entire county of San Diego. And this will be the last chance, for a long time, for voters to influence this post.

Whoever wins will settle into the job perhaps for the next 20 years. That is, unless he stumbles into some kind of scandal. He will have the chance to build a powerful political establishment — influencing local laws, local elections and, of course, one of the largest public safety departments in the region.

The story was about the effort to challenge the appointed sheriff, Bill Gore. Gore was installed in the county’s top public safety post when his mentor the longtime local law enforcement leader, Bill Kolender, retired in the middle of his term.

It must be tough to run for sheriff from outside the organization. Think about it: Law enforcement types hate few things more than criticism about how they do their jobs. They are the public’s shield against a nasty world and they feel — correctly many times — that we don’t understand what they have to do to make us feel safe.

On the other hand, there’s a reason we put elected people in charge of them. We want them to ultimately answer to the people and to be accountable.

So imagine you’re running for sheriff against someone who is managing the department right now, as Jim Duffy and Jay LaSuer are trying to do. You have to both tactfully argue the department is failing (because why put you in charge if not?) and yet, in Duffy’s case, you have to try not to upset the legions of deputies who are your main base of support.

Can Duffy pull off an upset, fire up the masses that they need to throw Bill Gore out of his appointed spot at the top? How does he fire San Diegans up about this guy’s supposed unsuitability for the job in the long term while not upsetting his colleagues and supporters?

That will be what we have to watch for. Does he try to make a case for mismanagement at the Sheriff’s Department? And if he does, does he make it well?

If he doesn’t, why do voters need to elect him? If Duffy fails to answer those questions well, he won’t have a shot.

— SCOTT LEWIS

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