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Sheriff

Ortiz takes early lead in sheriff race

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Oscar Ortiz and Jon Crawford

Napa County Sheriff Oscar Ortiz (left) and former Undersheriff Jon Crawford

Napa County Sheriff Oscar Ortiz took an early lead in his campaign to retain his post for a full four-year term. 

As of 8 p.m. Tuesday, polls showed Ortiz with 60.45% of the vote. His opponent, former Napa County Undersheriff Jon Crawford, had 39.55%.  

"I’m very happy with the results," Ortiz said Tuesday night. "I think the results are a product of a lot of hard work during the campaign and during my career."

"I’ve been blessed to be so involved in coaching kids and interacting with parents — whether soccer parents or boxing parents — for so many years in Napa County and I think that really made a difference today."

In addition, Ortiz believes the support of the Deputy Sheriff's Association really resonated with voters. "The deputies were very clear who they wanted to be their sheriff and I think people really responded to that," he said. 

Is there anything he would have done differently?

"Not at all," said Ortiz. "I made a commitment at the very beginning to not talk about my opponent and I stuck to my commitment ... to keep it positive.'"

Asked about his plans for Wednesday, Ortiz paused and said, "Tomorrow I am going to take a deep breath. I’m going to hug my family and I am going to think some positive thoughts about my opponent. I wish him the best." 

Crawford expressed disappointment at the initial results.

"It's obviously not what I was hoping for but I don’t think it’s over yet. We’ll see what happens."

Regardless of the final outcome, he said, "I just appreciate all the support I’ve gotten. I’m honored to be able to participate in the process. I worked hard and did the best I could do. I don’t have any regrets." 

Tuesday marked the finish line for an electoral race that arose with a change of leadership for Napa County’s top law-enforcement agency, after Sheriff John Robertson retired in June 2021.

The Board of Supervisors approved Ortiz, a 26-year sheriff’s office veteran who was previously the American Canyon police chief, to succeed Robertson as sheriff and complete the year and a half remaining on his term. Meanwhile, then-undersheriff Crawford in May had announced his candidacy to become Napa County’s top lawman – an ambition he later said led Robertson to fire him from the department in June after 23 years.

Crawford responded by appealing his ouster, calling it retribution for competing with Robertson’s favored successor, and eventually received a $500,000 settlement from Napa County. Despite his departure from the sheriff’s office, he has presented his campaign not as a bid for payback but as an effort driven by belief in his ability to do the job. “It doubles my resolve to work harder and be successful in my bid to become the next elected sheriff,” he said last year shortly after his dismissal.

In recent months, the current sheriff and former undersheriff have sought to promote themselves as better prepared to protect a county shaped over the last decade by the 2014 earthquake, devastating wildfires in 2017 and 2020, and the national movement against racism and police brutality.

Ortiz, who was raised in Yountville and attended Vintage High School, has pointed to his experience leading police in American Canyon (which contracts with Napa County for law enforcement) and his work with the county Office of Emergency Services after the 2014 quake. Crawford, a Justin-Siena alumnus, oversaw the sheriff’s office’s community services and investigations divisions as well as its Yountville branch before starting a three-year run as undersheriff in 2018.

Both candidates have presented plans that have often been more similar than different, supporting increased recruitment of minorities into law enforcement, deeper law enforcement involvement in youth social and sports programs, and more participation of mental health and social service workers in policing to resolve more crises without arrests or using force.

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The Napa Valley Register offers an in-depth look at the big races on the June 2022 ballot.

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Ortiz has raised $212,668 for his campaign, compared to the $123,482 collected by former undersheriff Crawford, according to financial disclosure reports.

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You can reach Howard Yune at 530-763-2266 or hyune@napanews.com

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Business Editor

Jennifer Huffman is the business editor and a general assignment reporter for the Napa Valley Register. I cover a wide variety of topics for the newspaper. I've been with the Register since 2005.

Public Safety Reporter

Howard Yune covers public safety for the Napa Valley Register. He has been a reporter and photographer for the Register since 2011, and previously wrote for the Marysville Appeal-Democrat, Anaheim Bulletin and Coos Bay (Oregon) World.

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