Sheriff easily outguns opponents.
Thursday, June 8, 2006
The election which had shaped up to be a showdown at the Monterey County corral turned out to be a massacre. Incumbent Mike Kanalakis was virtually guaranteed another four years as sheriff before his main challenger, Vincent Earland even knew what hit him.
Among a horde of supporters at Portabella’s Cafe, a trendy little eatery situated strategically close to the Monterey County Elections office on the southern edge of Salinas, Kanalakis shook hands, smiled calmly and talked about healing a department that had sustained some serious internal damage during the campaign.
“It’s time to start healing the wounds caused by this election,” he said. “In the end, polarizing the department doesn’t do anybody any good—it doesn’t help us do good work. As far as I’m concerned it’s all water under the bridge now.”
Early returns Tuesday night showed Kanalakis received 16,399 votes (76.87 percent) to Earland’s 3,355 votes (15.73 percent). A third candidate, Robert Oen, received only 1,507 votes (7.06 percent).
Kanalakis credited his impressive win to a clean campaign and positive reinforcement.
“We remained focused and positive. We kept our eye on the ball and it paid off in the end,” he says. “We ran a good clean campaign based on accomplishments and the most qualified candidate won.”
Although flush with victory, Kanalakis soberly listed the challenges facing his second term.
“We have a jail full of problems. We have to rebuild the department in terms of staffing,” he said. “I have to move aggressively to develop a recruitment and retention program that makes sense to the whole department.”
That work will begin Monday. Kanalakis is scheduled to appear before the June 12 Board of Supervisors’ budget hearing.
“First thing Monday I’ll be asking for positions back, equipment, and money to help restore programs,” he says. “I’m anxious to get back to work.
To minimize the polarizing election’s impact on his department, Kanalakis says he took an extended leave of absence to campaign.
“I wanted to keep politics out of the office,” he says. “I figured I couldn’t effectively manage my campaign and the department.”
Earland’s introduction to the politics of law enforcement was a rough one. Dressed in debonair black he paced an Embassy Suites ballroom in Seaside waiting for the returns to be broadcast on a giant screen. A DJ played ‘80s New Wave hits to an empty dance floor while the sedate collection of supporters and their families sat at tables and sipped their drinks.
Earland mentioned that his family had been calling from Philadelphia for updates, and his hometown newspaper, the Philadelphia Enquirer, had requested a “big story” if he won. He pointed out how many of his supporters were deputies.
“It’s a lot of the young guys here who want to see change, a lot of [deputies] who’ve been hiding behind the curtains waiting for this election. This is as much their race as mine,” he said.
Unfortunately, the Committee to Elect Earland relied on the local news to broadcast the returns, which they did as a footnote to the television show Last Comic Standing. When the first results for the sheriff’s race finally scrolled across the bottom of the screen, the challenger had a hard time hiding his disappointment.
“Fifteen percent?” he asked, incredulous. “Fifteen percent?”
“It’s early,” a supporter told him. Earland nodded but his body language suggested he knew it was over.
Asked what had been the deciding factor of the race, Earland replied, “The Republican party and their money.” When asked if he would run again in four years, he immediately replied, “Heck yeah.”
But he’ll have to find a way to outdraw Kanalakis, who’s beginning to look like a serious political gunslinger.
“I’m committed to my 10-year plan,” Kanalakis says. “And I fully intend to be around for a third term.”