The two candidates for Los Angeles County sheriff will face off Wednesday evening at a debate.
Here’s what to know and how to watch.
Alex Villanueva is the incumbent Los Angeles County sheriff. He is running as a “law and order” candidate but faces a number of scandals that have hit his department.
Villanueva has come under fire for not doing enough to crack down on gang-like groups of deputies who for decades have been accused of wielding significant control over department stations and glorifying violence.
He’s also a focal point in Vanessa Bryant’s lawsuit against L.A. County over photos deputies shared of the helicopter crash that killed her husband, Lakers star Kobe Bryant, her daughter and seven others.
And Villanueva was accused by high-ranking sheriff’s officials of trying to keep quiet an incident in which a deputy kneeled on the head of a handcuffed inmate. The Sheriff’s Department’s handling of the case is the subject of a criminal grand jury investigation.
Elected in 2018, Villanueva has rebranded himself as a more conservative, law-and-order sheriff and candidate, making regular appearances on Fox News to rail against the “woke left” and seize on voter frustrations with homelessness and crime.
Robert Luna became the first Latino chief of the Long Beach Police Department in 2014 and retired last year.
He has made reforming the Sheriff’s Department a top issue.
“He’s dysfunctional, and when I say he’s dysfunctional, you cannot have somebody who doesn’t have good relationships with the community, with the media, with other … elected and government officials and have good public safety,” Luna said of Villenueva when he entered the race last year.
Luna grew up in East L.A., which is patrolled by the Sheriff’s Department. Despite what he said was his community’s fraught relationship with law enforcement, Luna said he dreamed of being a police officer since he was 5. He said he joined the Long Beach force at 18 and, during his 36-year career there, held every rank.
Although he has faced questions about his ability to run a far larger agency, Luna said he has proved his leadership skills, pointing to his appointment to the board of the Major Cities Chiefs Assn. Being an outsider means that he wouldn’t be beholden to any interests in the Sheriff’s Department, Luna said, adding that he would open up “every record” to outside agencies such as the FBI and the state Department of Justice “to come in and do a thorough investigation.”
State of the race
In the crowded primary field, Villanueva got 30.66% of the vote compared with Luna’s 25.85%.
A Times/UC Berkeley poll released in August found Luna with an early edge.
Overall, 31% of L.A. County voters support Luna, while 27% support Villanueva, poll results show.
Luna is favored strongly by liberals and Democrats, with 46% of voters who identify as strongly liberal saying they’d choose him and only 7% supporting Villanueva.
The sheriff, meanwhile, is more popular among conservative and Republican voters: 54% of voters who described themselves as strongly conservative said they’d vote to reelect Villanueva if the election were held today. Only 13% said they’d select Luna.