Tue, Apr

Save Us From Villanueva. We Need A New Sheriff in Town.


GUEST COMMENTARY - ABAV. That’s the answer I get most when I ask, “Who’re you voting for for sheriff?”

I agree, wholeheartedly. I voted for Jim McDonnell, a fair and decent manager in the LAPD, particularly dealing with the civilian workers I represented.

But ballots are in the mail for the June 7th election and ABAV is not on the ballot. If AV is to become ‘the former guy,’ someone needs to beat him.

He needs to get beat.

“Los Angeles County voters chose this sheriff in 2018 in part because they were seduced into backing a supposedly liberal Democrat over the Republican incumbent. He has now swung far to the right to appeal to voters who might somehow believe he is the answer to the crime and homelessness that grew on his watch. But regardless of changing politics or ideology, the constant is Villanueva’s paranoia and misuse of his authority. He is a stain on self-government — one that voters have in their power to wash away.”

So, first, he needs to get less than 50% of the vote in the primary. Then we need an Art Agnos moment (when he won the mayor’s job in San Francisco in 1988 by coalescing all the many, varied candidates and campaigns to take out the incumbent) (the first time, of course – he got smushed by the police chief he’d fired when he ran for re-election -- a cautionary municipal tale).

Have all the candidates running committed to supporting whichever one of them ends up in a runoff?

I’ve only recently started to freak out about this particular election, but writer/producer/brilliant researcher Brittani Nichols has been working at it -- Sheriff Candidates' Red Flags dives deeply into each of the challengers. Read it right now and then come back. It’s fully sourced. I’ll wait.

Financial information is hard to get. The same awesome workers at the Registrar/Recorders office who just sent me both a text and an email letting me know that my ballot is in the mail require that one add up individual campaign contributions to understand the finances of any county campaign. Let’s hope they get a new database soon because I don’t have the patience for that.

Fortunately, 2UrbanGirls do:

“Sheriff Alex Villanueva has raised $1,239,240 to date, and having spent $393,925, along with debt of $20,073, he has $950,405 cash on hand.

‘The public is desperate for solutions to out-of-control homelessness and crime. The three-card Monte game of distraction against the sheriff by the political establishment has failed. We will win in June,’ Sheriff Villanueva’s campaign director, Javier Gonzalez, said. ‘The political elite will regret listening to their woke, well-off, privileged staff instead of listening to the concerns of immigrant communities, working class African-Americans, middle class homeowners and small-business owners who have borne the brunt of rising crime and out-of-control homelessness.’”




The LA county Democrats have declined to make an endorsement this time around. Cute. The County Fed punted too.

So. Who’s running?

Cecil Rhambo is currently the chief of LAX police, having spent decades in the LASD and then in Carson and Compton. He’s endorsed by my old union and a long list of organizations and community leaders. The union of LAX police officers has endorsed the incumbent.

Robert Luna retired as the police chief of the LBPD after 36 years with the department (he followed Jim McDonnell as chief) and is endorsed by a solid list of local and political leaders (and notably yesterday by the LA Times). Black Lives Matter-Long Beach activists protested his campaign announcement event.

Eric Strong is the only candidate who has committed to taking on gangs in the sheriff’s department, he says. He’s endorsed by Stonewall Demo Club and Mike Bonin (don’t read the comments) and others and recently by LA Forward Action and Stevie Wonder. Brittani Nichols concludes her exhaustive research:

“This is, essentially, a race for second place in the primary. It’s a lot harder to get people to vote in primaries. Since, as of yet, there has been no cohesion around voting Villanueva out, the most invigorated voters will be those that want to keep him in office. He will probably come in first based on that and being the incumbent. However, as long as he gets less than 50% +1 of the vote, there will be a runoff in the general election. Anyone that can get into a mud-slinging fight with Villanueva will make it harder to beat him in the general (Rhambo.) Part of why Villanueva was able to beat McDonnell is because he didn’t have a well-known record of failed leadership. In my opinion, Strong is by far the least bad of the candidates and the best positioned to have a compelling counter-narrative to Villanueva.”

Eli Vera’s first endorsement is Fabian Núñez. Just saying. Vera’s photo was one of three people the sheriff pointed to at his batshit presser when he announced a criminal investigation into Vera, inspector general Max Huntsman, and LA Times reporter Alene Tchekmedyian. Vera has worked in the LASD for 33 years and was reportedly in the circle closest to the sheriff until he decided to run against him.

“I believe as law enforcement officers our mission is to bring calmness and civility and peace to very difficult situations,” Vera said when he announced his candidacy in April. “And what we’ve witnessed from the current sheriff is someone that when someone disagrees with him, we see nothing but utter disdain and contempt.”

April 26, 2022 -- Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva points to a photo of Times reporter Alene Tchekmedyian during a news conference Tuesday. (Damian Dovarganes/Associated Press)

Matt Rodriguez retired from the LASD as a captain. He says he wouldn’t enforce the county’s vaccine mandates (only he and the incumbent agreed on this) and reports having been asked to join a ‘clique’ and get a tattoo he thought, perhaps, objectionable. “’It was not a white supremacist thing,’ he said. ‘They were friends of mine. They were good guys.’”

He wrote this letter to the LA County Democratic Party, mostly urging them not to endorse Cecil Rhambo.

Britta Steinbrenner retired recently to run for sheriff after 34 years in the department. She would be the first woman sheriff and wants to increase the percentage of women deputies from 18 to 30% by 2030. As the captain of the County Services Bureau (CSB), Steinbrenner was responsible for 450 staff “who provide building security and law enforcement services for six county hospitals, 85 libraries and 320 county buildings with oversight of a $130 million dollar contract and 2 private security guard contracts and the 700 guards who augment those security services.”

April Saucedo Hood and Karla Carranza are also reported to be running

Have you seen this ad? First time I saw it, I thought I was dreaming. It’d be a nightmare if he wins.

Vote! ABAV. The minute your ballot comes in the mail. Then please be prepared to vote in November for whoever comes in second.

I’m gonna stay on this so please also tell me what you think. Message me, text me, email me at [email protected], find me on Twitter (for now). Who are you voting for that is not AV? 


*  AV’s been eager for national media attention. Last week, he got it:  John Oliver Goes After L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva and His ‘Idiotic’ Campaign Ad Watch the video! It’ll make you laugh.

** Keep reading Alene Tchekmedyian in the LA Times,  Frank Stoltze in LAist,  Cerise Castle and watch the work of Unrig LA & Knock LA

*** Sheriffs are problematic in general and police departments writ large are worthy of continued focus

(Julie Butcher is a contributor to CityWatch.)