Los Angeles County voters came out in significant numbers to support Robert Luna in his bid to be the county’s next sheriff, according to early election results.
With 42% of votes counted, Luna led incumbent, Alex Villanueva by more than 150,000 votes Wednesday morning.
Luna appears poised to take the reins of the nation’s largest sheriff’s department from Villanueva, who had clashed with the media, high-ranking lieutenants within his department, as well as the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, which manages the budget of the department.
The Los Angeles County Sheriff serves a four-year term. There are no term limits for the position.
Luna served as chief of the Long Beach Police Department for seven years, having first been appointed to the position in 2014.
He was the last candidate standing in a crowded field of law enforcement professionals who sought to unseat the controversial sheriff.
Luna told supporters Tuesday night that he believed the trajectory of crime was not going in the right direction in Los Angeles County under Villanueva’s fractured leadership.
“When I first started to run for this job, beyond the wonderful men and women of the Sheriff’s Department, the priorities were clear, but simple. Number one was to keep the residents safe to keep you and your families safe,” Luna said.
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 allegations of covering up use-of-force incidents.
Villanueva has claimed that the Department has snuffed out any gang activity within its ranks and has denied any involvement in any alleged coverups.
Villanueva has also often been criticized for running as a progressive candidate in 2018, only to lean into more conservative values throughout his tenure.
The often contentious race has seen both candidates accuse the other of corruption and criticize each other’s handling of hot-button topics, including the death of George Floyd.
During an address to his supporters Tuesday night, Villanueva decried what he called the “entrenched political establishment” that looked to handicap his goals, but added that he felt he was successful in completing many of the tasks he set out to accomplish.
“You know what, the fact that when I took the job, I said I was going to do X, Y and Z things and we actually accomplished X, Y and Z. Every single thing,” Villanueva.