LA County sheriff’s race headed for runoff

Sheriff-Jim-McDonell

LOS ANGELES – Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell fell short of the majority vote needed for him to avoid a November runoff in his bid for re-election, and he will face sheriff’s Lt. Alex Villanueva in the general election.

McDonnell held a wide lead throughout the night as ballots from Tuesday’s primary were tabulated, but he failed to reach the 50 percent threshold needed to win re-election outright.

Unlike most of the primary races on the ballot, all of the county races are non-partisan.

The race for sheriff took shape as a referendum on McDonnell’s commitment to reform and the concerns of rank-and-file deputies.

The sheriff pointed to successes in a department that everyone agrees he took over in a time of crisis and, like all three candidates, seeks to strike a balance between attracting those who want him to be tough on crime and voters more concerned with reports of deputy brutality in the jails and on the streets.

“While we have worked hard for reform and to strengthen community relationships, we have also succeeded in bringing crime down,” McDonnell’s campaign website states. “We’ve reduced the serious use of force inside the jails, created a series of systems to build greater accountability and established the Public Data Sharing Project to increase transparency. We built the Human Trafficking Bureau to aggressively address a growing regional and national problem that victimizes some of the most vulnerable in our society — our children and young people.”

Villanueva, who has three decades of experience with the department, took the stance of a reformer, saying he challenged executive misconduct during Lee Baca’s administration and is willing to take tough positions.

“Alex plans to rebuild the LASD from the ground up, reforming the organization around the principles of community policing and ethical standards of conduct,” according to his website. “Alex’s experience within the LASD, the military, and as an educator, all point to a transformational leader who can reform the LASD, raise morale, inspire people to aim higher, and improve the relationship between the community and the LASD.”

Villanueva earned the influential endorsement of the Los Angeles County Democratic Party, along with many smaller neighbourhood party organizations. The Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs, which is in the midst of contract negotiations, declined to make an endorsement, after failing to get enough polling participation from its ranks to make a definitive choice. Union concerns include understaffing and what it says are flaws in the disciplinary system that have hurt morale and recruiting, but it is not clear that those issues will move most voters.

McDonnell was endorsed by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, District Attorney Jackie Lacey, state and county police chiefs associations, as well as the California Peace Officers Association and the Los Angeles Times, though the newspaper’s editorial board faulted McDonnell for failing to more wholeheartedly embrace innovative reforms implemented elsewhere.

Assessor Jeffrey Prang, meanwhile, also fell short of the total he needed to stave off a runoff against one of three deputy assessors who vied to replace him. He will square off in November with John Loew.

Prang, like McDonnell, took over a county department from a leader tainted by scandal, in this case, John Noguez, who is facing criminal charges for allegedly accepting campaign donations in exchange for lowering property assessments.

The county assessor’s office is responsible for evaluating more than 2.6 million real estate and business properties valued at more than $1.4 trillion and managing an annual budget of nearly $200 million and about 1,400 employees.

In addition to taking responsibility for restoring trust in the department, Prang said he has moved to modernize technology and make more information accessible online.

Prang says he will continue to replace and upgrade legacy systems and make sure assessments are fair.

Loew changed his middle name before the 2014 primary for the same post so he could appear on that ballot and this one as John “Lower Taxes” Loew.

All of Prang’s opponents stressed their experience as appraisers, a skill they say is necessary to run the department, while Prang counters that his work in city and county government, as both an elected official and administrator, better suits the job.

Prang is endorsed by the Los Angeles County Democratic Party, all five members of the county Board of Supervisors, the California Association of Realtors, Service Employees International Union Local 721 and the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor.

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