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Two of Los Angeles County’s most powerful elected officials appeared together in front of a news camera last month to describe ramped-up efforts to battle the coronavirus outbreak.

That evening, Sheriff Alex Villanueva’s phone buzzed with a text from Supervisor Kathryn Barger.

“For what it’s worth: You were great today,” she wrote. “True leadership.”

It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what went wrong after that March 12 show of unity. But the following week, the dynamic between Villanueva and Barger turned hostile, with both throwing punches over control of coronavirus messaging.

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