Sheriff Scott Jones to try to nab Congressman Ami Bera's seat

Jones makes border security his top campaign issue

The worst-kept secret in Sacramento politics is out: Sheriff Scott Jones will pursue higher office.

The Republican constable will challenge Democratic physician Ami Bera for the seventh district congressional seat Bera currently holds. Jones made the announcement Monday at the Sacramento Marriott hotel in Rancho Cordova, where he was joined by his wife, his predecessor John McGinness and the man Bera defeated, former Congressman Doug Ose.

In a lengthy statement, Jones said he tried to avoid politics after becoming sheriff in 2010, but gradually embraced the authority the position bestowed. 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 said 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.”

Jones has expressed similar views in the past, but the new wrinkle this time was his connection of the U.S. immigration landscape to Europe’s migrant crisis and the recent terrorist attacks in France. “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,” he asserted. “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 the sheriff credited an immigration-themed YouTube video he addressed to President Barack Obama last year for launching him onto the national stage, both his critics and supporters have whispered about Jones’ political aspirations for some time.

And his No. 1 campaign issue is immigration.

In a recent interview with SN&R, Jones said he might support a pathway to citizenship that excludes “the drains on society,” 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. He also disagreed with the perception that he’s “some right-wing conservative.”

In an emailed statement, Bera said he looked “forward to a substantive discussion about the issues.” His campaign website says he’s raised $1 million this year for reelection.

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.