San Mateo County Voters Elect Live Sheriff This Time

Times Staff Writer

San Mateo County voters, who chose a dead man for sheriff in a controversial election last summer, voted much more quietly to fill his seat with a living-and-breathing undersheriff in a special election on Tuesday.

Undersheriff Leonard Cardoza, who has served as acting sheriff since last June's election, handily won 58% of the vote to beat a field of five opponents, the county registrar of voters said Wednesday. Cardoza, 52, is a 26-year veteran of the department.

The special election was set up after the posthumous reelection last June of Brendan Maguire, a popular incumbent who died of a heart attack in the middle of the campaign. Maguire's only opponent in that race was Jim White, 31, a U.S. Mint police officer who had filed a lawsuit against Maguire and the county for allegedly overcharging him for a gun permit.

Local elected officials had successfully lobbied for a special state bill postponing the election until August to open the field to more candidates. However, White won a state Supreme Court decision forcing the election to go on in June as scheduled. White won 20% of the vote against the dead Maguire. The Board of Supervisors then appointed Cardoza acting sheriff pending Tuesday's election.

This time, with five living opponents, White took only 5% of the vote.

Despite a broader field of candidates, Tuesday's election attracted fewer voters than last June's. Only 68,000 voters--less than one-quarter of those registered--turned out this time, the registrar said. This was about 30,000 fewer than had voted in June.

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