The worst-kept secret in Sacramento politics is out: Sheriff Scott Jones is running for higher office.
The Republican constable will pursue the seventh district congressional seat currently held by Democratic physician Ami Bera, who is expected to seek reelection.
Jones made the announcement Monday morning at the Sacramento Marriott Hotel in Rancho Cordova, where he was joined by his wife, District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert, former Congressman Doug Ose (whom Bera defeated) and Jones’ predecessor at the department, former Sheriff John McGinnesss.
In a statement, Jones says he initially hoped to avoid politics after he was elected in 2010, but gradually came to embrace the platform being sheriff provided him. That was especially true last year, when Jones called for stricter immigration laws following the deaths of two area sheriff’s officers, allegedly gunned down by a Mexican national who had been deported before.
“With the tragic events that occurred last year in our department, immigration reform became a particular focus and passion of mine,” Jones says in his statement. “The system is broken, there is no political courage or will in the executive branch to change it, and Americans in every state on every day are being victimized because of its failure.”
He expressed similar sentiments during an interview with SN&R about his department’s scrutinized relationship with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement division of the Department of Homeland Security.
Different this time, though, is that Jones sought to connect the United States’ immigration landscape to the weekend’s terrorist attacks in France and Europe’s migrant crisis.
“We now know that terrorists, including at least some of those involved in the attack in Paris on Friday, are embedding themselves with refugee immigrants to Western Europe,” his statement continues. “There should no longer be any debate over the need to control our own borders and know exactly who is coming into our country. While I can work diligently to protect the residents of Sacramento County, the leadership of this country is leading us toward disaster if they do not move immediately to control our borders and solve the immigration issue.”
While the sheriff says he was “launched into the national discussion” after making a widely seen YouTube plea to President Barack Obama to toughen border security, both his critics and supporters saw larger political aspirations in him before then.
Still, immigration is his number one issue.
In his interview with SN&R, Jones said he might support a pathway to citizenship, but only after total border security was achieved. “Because you have to have a sealed border for any true immigration reform to work,” he said.
As for a naturalization program, Jones said prioritization would be important. “Basically we would want to exclude the drains on society—the criminals, perhaps, and/or the people that are just for resources and don’t have any intention of producing,” he said. “Which would be a very small minority of that group.”
He also disagreed with the perception that some immigrants’ rights groups have that he’s “some right-wing conservative.”
The seventh congressional district includes the cities of Elk Grove, Folsom, Citrus Heights and Rancho Cordova, as well as a large portion of unincorporated Sacramento County.
In an emailed statement, Bera said he looked “forward to a substantive discussion about the issues that matter to my constituents and how I can continue to serve them.” His campaign website says he’s raised $1 million this year for his reelection campaign.