Names have started dropping into the 2022 race for Santa Clara County Sheriff as six-termer Laurie Smith seemingly edges closer to the exit door of her scandal-tarnished administration.

Smith has endured a rocky 47-year tenure. Controversies surrounding concealed weapons permitting and continued abuses at the county jail came to a head in recent days, as the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors voted “no confidence” in her ability to lead. Smith has refused all calls to step down.

At first glance, 19-year Sheriff’s Office veteran Christine Nagaye looks cut from a different cloth than other candidates—a fresh face running for elected office for the first time, answering calls for reform in the county’s jails, law enforcement operations and runaway budgets.

With experience working in corrections and six years as a supervising sergeant, Nagaye pledged in an announcement Thursday to change the culture of the Sheriff’s Department by “bring[ing] honesty, transparency and integrity back.” She ducked conversations, however, saying she wanted to wait for a staged announcement, which suggests she may be more managed than transparent.

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