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New group aims to oust Riverside County Sheriff Chad Bianco in 2022

Riverside Press-Enterprise logo Riverside Press-Enterprise 8/26/2021 Jeff Horseman
Chad Bianco sitting in front of a curtain: A political action committee formed earlier this year with the goal of unseating Riverside County Sheriff Chad Bianco, seen Feb. 22, 2021, in the 2022 election. (File photo by Will Lester, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG) © Provided by Riverside Press-Enterprise A political action committee formed earlier this year with the goal of unseating Riverside County Sheriff Chad Bianco, seen Feb. 22, 2021, in the 2022 election. (File photo by Will Lester, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)

Critics of Riverside County Sheriff Chad Bianco have formed a political action committee aimed at unseating the sheriff when he’s up for reelection next year.

The Riverside Alliance for Safety & Accountability has paid for emails, text messages and social media ads attacking Bianco, campaign finance records show.

“Chad Bianco is failing all of us, and he is a real threat to the future of our public safety,” read a statement on the group’s website, “We cannot allow Chad Bianco to steamroll our community with his limitless power for another four years. The safety of our community is at stake.”

Bianco “ignored and disregarded science and facts” regarding the coronavirus pandemic, an alliance news release states.

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During his tenure, concealed weapons permits “have tripled … putting thousands of additional guns on our streets,” the release read, noting the ACLU has filed a complaint with federal agencies accusing the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department of misusing more than $4.6 million in COVID-19 relief funds.

Bianco could not be reached for comment, and the Sheriff’s Department did not respond to requests for comment. The Riverside Sheriffs’ Association — the union representing sheriff’s deputies and other law enforcement personnel — defended Bianco in an emailed statement.

“Sheriff Bianco has demonstrated, through his leadership of the department since his election in 2018, that the 58% of voters who cast their ballot for him were correct in deciding he should be the sheriff of Riverside County,” association President Bill Young said.

A former sheriff’s lieutenant who unseated incumbent Stan Sniff in 2018, Bianco has been outspoken and controversial since taking the reins of the county’s largest law enforcement agency. While the office of sheriff is nonpartisan, Bianco, a Republican, has publicly criticized Gov. Gavin Newsom’s criminal justice policies and handling of the pandemic.

The sheriff, who contracted COVID-19 in January after earlier stating he would not get the vaccine, refused to enforce mask orders and business restrictions and ignored calls to release jail inmates early to prevent the virus’s spread.

Bianco, who frequently spars with critics on social media, has appeared on conservative TV networks and enjoys strong support from conservatives and those opposed to coronavirus lockdown orders. But he’s been condemned by those who think he puts political ideology ahead of public safety and inmates’ welfare.

In June 2020, about 40 protesters held a “Boot Bianco” rally outside the Robert Presley Detention Center and sheriff’s headquarters in downtown Riverside. Protesters demanded better treatment of jail inmates and the shifting of money from the Sheriff’s Department toward other community needs.

Joy Silver, a Palm Springs Democrat and former Inland state Senate candidate, is the anti-Bianco PAC’s co-chair. The PAC is supported by “a group of individuals and like-minded organizations” and 20 people make up its leadership council, Silver said via email.

The PAC is not recruiting a candidate to run against Bianco, “but the goal of our work is to help carve a path for a credible challenger,” she said.

The committee officially formed in March. As of June 30, it had raised about $6,600 from seven donors and spent about $3,400.

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The sheriff’s election is in June 2022, with a possible November runoff between the top two vote-getters if no candidate wins a simple majority. While Riverside County’s electorate is trending blue, defeating Bianco won’t be easy.

State law requires sheriff’s candidates to have either an advanced certificate from the Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training or a certain level of law enforcement experience depending on their educational background.

Any Bianco challenger also will have to contend with the deputies’ union, which spent six figures on Bianco’s 2018 campaign and has defended its preferred candidates with mailed attack ads against their opponents. As of June 30, the sheriff had more than $481,000 in his campaign fund.

Silver acknowledged Bianco “is a well-funded incumbent, but Riverside County deserves new leadership.”

“Voters are smart, and our alliance of volunteers and organizations are fired up to get to work to reach these voters ahead of 2022,” she said.


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