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Who are the two candidates vying for San Diego County Sheriff?

Candidates Kelly Martinez and John Hemmerling who are running for San Diego County Sheriff both attended a forum Wednesday evening in southeast San Diego.

SAN DIEGO — Interim Sheriff Anthony Ray serves the role for the county—but on November Eighth, voters will decide who should take over Undersheriff Kelly Martinez or former Chief Criminal Prosecutor John Hemmerling.

The election is less than six weeks away and soon San Diegan voters will have to choose who will take the role of keeping the community safe in San Diego County.

Whoever wins in November will have to steer a department grappling with a scathing state auditor’s report prompted by a high number of deaths in the county jails–majority being from overdoses.

During the forum the two candidates were asked how they plan to resolve the issue.

“The amount of fentanyl that’s coming into this county, the amount of deaths and overdoses from those types of drugs. Not only in our communities, but it's getting into our jails but it needs to be serious, we need to put a stop to it,” said Hemmerling.  

The candidate is also a Marine veteran, who informed participants that new leadership is needed and addressing the issue starts with preventing burnout among deputies, who are first line defense against people smuggling drugs into jails. 

Martinez, who has been part of the sheriff’s department since 1984, says overdose deaths among inmates is an issue that is currently being addressed. Adding that they have pushed mental assessments and naloxone to save inmate lives.

“They’re smuggling fentanyl into our jails," said Martinez. "We are making enormous efforts to prevent that but we haven’t been successful at preventing all of it.”

Another issue discussed was the racial disparities when it comes to arrests.

“I’ll hold people accountable if they are biased in their policing,” said Martinez.

While Hemmerling informed the public by saying “There’s no place in the sheriff's department or in any deputy who would allow racial or gender bias to interfere with the fair and justice execution of their duties…period.”

The two candidates were also asked about immigration and how they plan to build a relationship with migrant families, who normally stay silent instead of reporting a crime because of fear and intimidation tactics from law enforcement.

“We want to provide public safety for everybody in this county,” said Hemmerling, while Martinez said, "We want to make sure that everyone who is residing in San Diego County feels safe.”

The two also informed people that addressing gun violence and tackling recidivism is a top priority.

Election day is November 8th and ballots will be mailed out October 8th.

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