Quick Take:

What Santa Cruz County Sheriff Jim Hart might do was a big unknown in the race to replace the retiring Bruce McPherson in District 5, which stretches from north of the city of Santa Cruz to the Santa Clara County line. Nonprofit CEO Monica Martinez announced Oct. 30 that Hart had endorsed her candidacy, giving her a boost in a three-person field that also includes Christopher Bradford and Theresa Bond.

Intrigue has surrounded the District 5 Santa Cruz County supervisor race for much of the past year.

Initially, the curiosity was bound to whether longtime incumbent Bruce McPherson would seek a fourth consecutive term in 2024 or retire. After McPherson announced his retirement in June, interest turned toward whether Sheriff Jim Hart would now announce his candidacy in the district. Hart told Lookout in March that while he toyed with the prospect of running, he “would never consider running against Bruce.”

Hart appears to have finally made his decision, though the news comes not from Hart himself but rather from his would-be opponent, Monica Martinez, CEO of nonprofit Encompass Community Services. On Oct. 30, Martinez announced that Hart, along with former Assemblymember Mark Stone, had formally endorsed her campaign.

Martinez stopped short of calling Hart’s support a surprise, but said the endorsement provides a substantial boost to her campaign in the now three-person race. She said she understood the endorsement as a confirmation that he would not be seeking the supervisor’s seat next year. Hart did not answer Lookout’s several attempts at comment.

Monica Martinez, CEO of Encompass Community Services.
Monica Martinez, CEO of Encompass Community Services. Credit: Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz

“A lot of us didn’t know what his plan was,” Martinez told Lookout over the phone. “I feel really honored to have earned his endorsement. It shows people are feeling confident in me as a candidate, and that he sees I’m building a really strong campaign.”

Martinez said she and Hart have developed a strong working relationship over the past decade, as Encompass provides substance abuse and other reentry services for people exiting the jail system and returning to society. She said she and Hart have also served alongside one another on the local Criminal Justice Council for the past nine years.

In March, Hart told Lookout that he had lived in District 5 — which stretches from the northern section of the city of Santa Cruz through Felton, Ben Lomond, Boulder Creek and up to the Santa Clara County line — for “most of my life” but was unsure in what capacity he would like to continue his service to the community. As sheriff, Hart makes more than $291,000, more than double the $140,000 supervisor’s salary

The race for the Fifth District, which encompasses Scotts Valley and San Lorenzo Valley, is now among three people: Martinez, Christopher Bradford and Theresa Bond. Bradford, a Boulder Creek resident who first filed paperwork in April to run for the seat, has been hyperfocused on the issues plaguing private water utility Big Basin Water Company; Bond, who filed an intent to run only in September, confirmed Monday that she planned to continue in the race and said she was motivated to run based on the consistent outages of water, power and telecommunications connection.

McPherson said he would hold his endorsement until the filing deadline closes Dec. 8, but admitted Martinez has an early advantage.

“There’s no question that Monica Martinez has a strong following,” McPherson told Lookout. “It looks very good for her.”

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Over the past decade, Christopher Neely has built a diverse journalism résumé, spanning from the East Coast to Texas and, most recently, California’s Central Coast.Chris reported from Capitol Hill...