Milo Fitch, a former deputy chief with the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department, formally announced Thursday he will challenge incumbent Scott Jones, providing an alternative with backing from local Democratic leaders.
Fitch, 59, currently works at the state agency responsible for providing work opportunities and job training for inmates to prevent them from returning to incarceration.
He also spent the last part of his 30-year career with the Sheriff’s Department overseeing the Sacramento County Main Jail and its sister facility, the Rio Cosumnes Correctional Center.
He filed papers with the county’s election office earlier Thursday, making his bid for the seat official, he said.
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“Many of our communities have been unrepresented for the last eight years, and my focus is going to be bring all of those communities together through law enforcement so we can have a safer community,” Fitch said.
In a county where Democrats now have a 43.6 percent to 27.1 percent registration advantage over Republicans, Fitch gives voters a more liberal alternative to incumbent Sheriff Scott Jones, a Republican.
But voter registration may be less important in a law enforcement race, said Democratic political consultant Andrew Acosta. Voters tend to weigh a candidate's experience within law enforcement and knowledge of relevant issues more heavily in sheriff's races, he said.
“You have to tick the boxes to be in the game and from what I’ve read, I think Milo is credible," Acosta says. "(Fitch) did real stuff so it’s hard to say the guy is not qualified.”
On Thursday, Fitch was accompanied by Sacramento City Councilman Steve Hansen, who said the two met while working on an inmate reentry council prior to Fitch’s retirement from the department in 2014.
The council gathered officials from local cities, the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department and District Attorney’s Office, as well as representatives from local social service programs, to help inmates reintegrate into society.
“With all the changes that we’ve had in our criminal justice reform, prison population reductions, these types of programs are the very programs we need our sheriff to champion to make our communities safer,” Hansen said.
Fitch will need to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign funds and gain endorsements from key people in order to compete against Jones, who has already established ties with various law enforcement and political groups in the county, Acosta said.
“He has to go out and crank," Acosta said.
Fitch is one of three people so far running against Jones, who is vying for a third term as the county’s top cop after his preferred candidate, Chief Deputy Kris Palmer, backed out of the race earlier this year.
Donna Lee Cox, a former Sheriff's sergeant, also has filed candidacy papers, calling for more staffing and a "zero tolerance policy" for bullying and sexual harassment in the department.
Also running is Citrus Heights Councilman Bret Daniels, a former Sheriff's deputy who was fired in 2001 for using confidential computer records for personal use, according to an appellate court filing. Daniels is calling for more fiscal responsibility, suggesting that many deputies earn too much, and for faster issuance of concealed-weapon permits, according to his website.