Hennessey Defeats Scandal-Plagued Mirkarimi in Sheriff’s Race

San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi, plagued by scandals from the start of his term, appears to have been defeated by former Chief Deputy and one-time interim sheriff Vicki Hennessy, according to complete unofficial election results Tuesday.

Hennessy, who will be San Francisco’s first elected female sheriff, received about 61 percent of the vote, compared to nearly 33 percent for Mirkarimi. Another challenger, former sheriff’s Lt. John Robinson, finished with about 6 percent.

Hennessy joined the sheriff’s department in 1975 and moved up the ranks to chief deputy in 1997. In 2008, then-Mayor Gavin Newsom appointed her as the director of the city’s Department of Emergency Management.

Mirkarimi, who previously served for seven years on the Board of Supervisors, has faced a series of problems since taking office as sheriff in 2012, starting with domestic violence allegations stemming from an incident in which he grabbed his wife’s arm during an argument just days before being sworn in.

Mayor Ed Lee suspended Mirkarimi on official misconduct charges as a result of the allegations and appointed Hennessy as interim sheriff.

Mirkarimi eventually pleaded guilty to misdemeanor false imprisonment in March 2012 and was sentenced to probation and ordered to undergo counseling.

He was reinstated as sheriff that October when the 11-member Board of Supervisors did not reach the nine votes necessary under the city charter to remove him from office on the official misconduct charges.

The sheriff’s department during Mirkarimi’s term has also drawn scrutiny and criticism, most notably following the fatal shooting in July of Kate Steinle, a woman walking on the city’s waterfront with her family.

Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, an undocumented immigrant who had previously been deported five times and has seven prior felony convictions, was arrested and charged with killing Steinle.

The case spurred a national debate on San Francisco’s sanctuary city policy and how the sheriff’s department should cooperate with federal immigration authorities.

Earlier this year, the FBI launched an investigation into allegations that San Francisco sheriff’s deputies forced county jail inmates to fight “gladiator-style” while deputies placed bets on the outcomes.

The department was also criticized in 2013 after deputies failed to find a missing San Francisco General Hospital patient who was found dead more than two weeks later on a hospital stairwell.

Mirkarimi during the campaign touted his progressive credentials, including the introduction of several policies seeking to reduce San Francisco’s inmate population and recidivism rate, including being the first sheriff in the nation to integrate the Affordable Care Act into inmate discharge planning.

Hennessy, who kept a low profile in the sheriff’s race, said on her campaign website that San Francisco “deserves experienced law enforcement leadership that serves with integrity.”

Dan McMenamin, Bay City News

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