Early results are in for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Office race and it appears Sheriff Alex Villanueva will head into a November runoff election after failing to secure more than 50% of the vote. His opponent is likely to be former Long Beach Police Chief Robert Luna.
As of Wednesday morning, Luna had managed to bring home the most votes among the crowded field of challengers seeking to unseat the current sheriff, who frequently made unwanted headlines during his first term as the county’s highest law enforcement official.
The early results showed that Luna, the only candidate in the field with no previous ties to the Sheriff’s Department, was able to drum up enough support to stand out among the crowded pack. Luna’s distinguished career as a law enforcement administrator earned him praise both in and out of the police community, which led to him receiving a coveted endorsement from the Los Angeles Times.
As Tuesday rolled into Wednesday, Luna led the way among challengers with 24.53% of the vote, followed by LASD Lieutenant Eric Strong with 12.5% and LAX Police Chief Cecil Rhambo with 7.57%. Villanueva lead all vote-getters with 34.38%, but he’ll likely face an uphill battle in November once the crowd of challengers thins.
Villanueva’s first term as Sheriff saw him clash with members of the media, as well as the L.A. County Board of Supervisors which oversees his department’s multi-billion dollar budget.
Elected in 2018 as a Democrat, Villanueva has drawn intense scrutiny during his tenure for his handling of accusations of deputy gangs among his staff, as well as recent allegations of covering up a use-of-force incident at the San Fernando Courthouse in March 2021. Villanueva has claimed that the Department has snuffed out any gang activity within its ranks and has denied covering up the courthouse incident.
Despite the many controversies, Villanueva has delivered on some of his early promises as a candidate. Under his leadership, the Sheriff’s Department has restricted U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents from accessing the county jails, and he was successful in bringing body cameras to deputies in the field.
Still, his four years as sheriff led to much opposition in political and government oversight circles, resulting in eight candidates throwing their names in the ring to unseat him.
Now the focus turns to Nov. 8 where Villanueva will hope to stave off a challenge from a now-united front as Luna looks to gather up support from his recent competitors. It seems unlikely that many of Villanueva’s departed challengers will be endorsing him, meaning the message from his critics seems clear: Anyone but Villanueva.
For a complete list of election returns across Los Angeles and L.A. County, click here.