2022 Los Angeles County sheriff election live results

Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva’s bid for re-election will go up for a runoff in November after early poll results showed him holding a slim lead over the chief of the retired Long Beach policeman Robert Luna.

With about a third of the expected votes counted, The Associated Press predicted that Villanueva would fall short of the 50% plus one threshold needed to avoid a runoff.

While only a few percentage points separated Villanueva and Luna, Luna missed out on second place in the second round on Tuesday night, leaving open the possibility that another challenger could pass him, according to the AP.

Other candidates were much further back. Sheriff’s Lt. Eric Strong was third and Los Angeles International Airport Police Chief Cecil Rhambo was a distant fourth.

About 200 people had gathered at an East LA restaurant on Tuesday night for Villanueva’s election watch party. A few wore cowboy hats and others wore green buttons with Villanueva’s picture and a campaign slogan. The mood turned a bit somber when the first results came in.

Villanueva took the stage for the first time just before 10 p.m., walking to Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down.”

He began by pointing out that progressive San Francisco prosecutor Chesa Boudin was ousted in a recall election. “George Gascón, you’re next!” he said to cheers from the crowd, referring to the Los Angeles District Attorney.

Referring to the race, he said: “I know we’re sitting at the top. And we plan to stay on top.

He added: “We can end all of this tonight; we’ll find out soon enough. But you know what, even if it goes far, I’m made for endurance.

Meanwhile, at Luna’s house in Long Beach, there was an air of tempered excitement. Friends, family and campaign workers cheered and breathed sighs of relief.

“I feel like people want change, they want good policing,” Luna said in the dining room. “I’m cautiously optimistic, but I’m honored by the support I’m getting at this point.”

Retired Long Beach Police Chief Robert Luna, center, and his wife Celines celebrate the night of the primary election

Retired Long Beach Police Chief Robert Luna, center, and his wife, Celines, celebrate primary election night with supporters at his Long Beach home.

(Myung J. Chun/Los Angeles Times)

Steve James, a former Long Beach police lieutenant who worked for years under Luna and was at the rally Tuesday night, said he was “pleasantly surprised” by Luna’s first appearance.

“I expected to see him second. I didn’t expect to see him so close to Villanueva at this point, and I didn’t expect to see him so far ahead of third place,” James said.

“Looks like he’s going to be busy until November.”

Villanueva had a tumultuous first term, marked by a series of controversies and a contentious and dysfunctional relationship with the powerful county board of supervisors, which controls his budget. And he sparred throughout his four years in office with the watchdogs appointed to police him and the department, fending off repeated subpoenas asking him to answer questions under oath on a range of issues. .

Much of the criticism centers on what critics say is Villanueva’s lackluster response to gang groups of deputies who are accused of glorifying aggressive policing and celebrating on-duty shootings. He was also criticized for, among other things, trying to cover up the fact that deputies shared graphic photos of the site where Kobe Bryant’s helicopter crashed.

The upset follows a highly unlikely victory in 2018, when the retired sheriff’s lieutenant emerged from relative obscurity to defeat the incumbent. He was the first challenger to unseat an LA County sheriff in more than a century.

To win, Villanueva portrayed himself to Democratic voters as a progressive reformer and won over many of his liberal credentials by promising to limit the department’s cooperation in county jails with federal immigration authorities.

On that issue, he followed through after taking office, removing Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers from LA County jails and later banning warrantless transfers to ICE. The move brought the department into compliance with several court rulings that found many such transfers to be unconstitutional.

But otherwise, Villanueva has taken an increasingly hard turn to the right to refashion himself as a conservative law-and-order sheriff. During the campaign trail and in his frequent appearances on Fox News, he spoke out against “woke left” politics he blames for the county’s homeless crisis and steep rise in homicides and other crimes. . One of his major initiatives has been to dramatically increase the number of permits issued to allow people to carry concealed weapons.

And he has skillfully tapped into voters’ frustration and anger over homelessness, portraying himself as the only elected official with the will and the know-how to tackle the problem. In a well-choreographed photoshoot, he took to the Venice Beach boardwalk in June last year to announce he would be cleaning up the huge homeless encampment. Although his claim was grossly exaggerated, the decision left an impression on voters.

Villanueva won the support of rank-and-file deputies, in large part because of his uncompromising refusal to enforce the county’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate. The support helped him gain approval from the Assn. for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs, but unlike 2018 when he spent at least $1.3 million supporting him, this time around the union has yet to contribute.

While all the controversies under Villanueva’s leadership left him facing a crowded group of challengers, the county Democratic Party failed to rally behind one candidate, leaving them to fight each other for endorsements and campaign funds.

Jeffrey Katzenberg, DreamWorks co-founder and longtime Democratic national donor, was a factor in the race. He poured half a million dollars into a committee supporting Luna and said Villanueva “created dysfunction and chaos that put our public safety at risk,” according to a fundraising appeal for Luna he sent to the end of last year.

Luna became the Long Beach agency’s first Latino chief when he succeeded Jim McDonnell, elected sheriff in 2014 and ousted by Villanueva. Luna, who grew up in East LA, joined the Long Beach force at 18 and, during her 36-year career there, held every rank.

The Los Angeles County Professional Peace Officers Assn., which represents sergeants, lieutenants and other sheriff’s supervisors, has spent nearly $200,000 supporting Eli Vera, a retired sheriff’s commander who was once a close adviser of Villanueva.

“I wasn’t thrilled with Villanueva,” said Abbey Jaeger, a West LA resident who dropped off her ballot at the Felicia Mahood Multipurpose Center on Tuesday. “I’d rather give someone else a chance than continue with them.”

The 29-year-old said she spent three hours researching and filling out her ballot. For sheriff, she voted for Luna, saying he seemed trustworthy.

Several voters told The Times they skipped the sheriff’s race altogether because they felt they weren’t knowledgeable enough about the candidates.

Casandra Del Carmen, 46, of West LA, said she voted for retired Sheriff Captain Matt Rodriguez because he was Latino and she had heard good things about him, but said that she hadn’t had time to thoroughly research each candidate.

Mitzie Parker, who lives near the Los Angeles-Marina del Rey border, said she voted for Villanueva because he sent deputies to a trash-strewn homeless encampment in her neighborhood.

“Nobody would do anything,” she said, referring to appeals to the city council and the LAPD being turned down. She said she felt like she was locked inside her house because she was afraid to leave.

But the sheriff’s efforts to clean up the homeless in Venice without coordinating with the Los Angeles Police Department, which patrols the area, is what has put 64-year-old Jacquelyn Wilcoxen down.

“It was very disruptive, very kind of macho – that’s how he comes across,” Wilcoxen said.

Wilcoxen, who voted for Villanueva in 2018 but was disappointed, said she filled in her ballot for Luna this time around.

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