Could Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones Challenge Bera in '16?

Two years ago at this time, Republican opponents were lining up to run against Democratic Congressman Dr. Ami Bera for California'...

Two years ago at this time, Republican opponents were lining up to run against Democratic Congressman Dr. Ami Bera for California's competitive Seventh District.

A competitive district since 2008 when then-incumbent Republican Dan Lungren barely edged out an under-funded Dr. Bill Durston, the district became hyper-competitive in 2012 following redistricting by the California Citizens Redistricting Commission. Bera won races in 2012 and 2014 over Republicans Lungren and former Congressman Doug Ose respectively by the narrowest of margins.

Drawn as one of the nation's most competitive Congressional Districts in 2012, at this time two years ago Republican's Igor Birman, Elizabeth Emken, and Ose had already thrown their hats into the race. As of today, to the best of our knowledge, Bera has no declared opponents.

Normally, this might be explained by the power of Congressional incumbency. Indeed, although Congress as a whole has consistent low approval rates, many sources cite a 90-percent plus incumbency reelection success rate.  

Although Bera has won as an incumbent, this doesn't mean it was easy in 2014, nor will it be in next year. The National Republican Congressional Committee has again targeted the Seventh District, and as in 2014 when the Bera-Ose race became the nation's most expensive Congressional race, huge amounts of money from independent expenditure committees from both political sides is expected to flood the race should the Republicans field a strong candidate.

Even with all the money that will slosh around following next June's qualifying primary, there are no Republican candidates making any rumblings. There is one prominent Republican name that has popped up who could be that strong candidate - Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones.

A second term Sheriff, Jones took office in 2010 after narrowly defeating former Sacramento Sheriff's Department colleague and current California Assembly Member Jim Cooper. In 2014, Jones ran unopposed.

For Jones, a run in the Seventh District, which is wholly contained in Sacramento County, would be an interesting proposition given his high name recognition, and that he could do it half-way through his current term as sheriff. Although the NRCC does not as a policy endorse any primary candidates, a Jones candidacy would certainly provide them and the cash-rich independent expenditure committees with the type of candidate they must be salivating for in their quest to retake the Seventh. 

Furthermore, following last year's tragic shooting deaths of Placer and Sacramento County Deputy Sheriffs, Jones has inserted himself into the national debate on immigration. Jones made his argument on immigration reform in a viral video that criticized President Obama's lack of leadership on the issue. 

When asked about the possibility of running, Jones noted the fact that he ran unopposed in 2014 shows county voters have confidence in his stewardship of the Sheriff's Department, and that will remain his immediate goal. Jones acknowledged there is no secret that he has taken a stance on immigration following last year's shootings.

"It is no secret that I have engaged the national discussion on public safety and immigration issues, shaped largely by the murder of our officer Danny Oliver last year," Jones said. "I am frustrated like many Americans at the inaction at the federal level, and the consistent declination of the country in the world standing. As long as I have a political voice, I feel it is my responsibility to stand up and use it."

Combined with the shooting death of a woman in San Francisco earlier this year by a man illegally in the country with a criminal record, the immigration issue could be a platform for Jones to contrast himself with Bera who has been taken a more pro-immigration position. Since 2016 is also a Presidential election and immigration is developing as a major issue, stances on the topic could result in a strong turn-out on both sides of the political spectrum. 

Jones also acknowledged that he has been approached about entering the race, and while at this time he remains committed to his Sheriff's duties, he did not completely rule it out either.

"I have been approached by many to run for Congress, and I tell them the same thing I will here tell you; I will never say never," he added. "But for now my focus remains continuing the initiatives within the Sheriff's Department and maintaining the safety and quality of life for the families of Sacramento County."  

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