Retired Lengthy Seashore Police Chief Robert Luna has an early edge over incumbent Alex Villanueva within the runoff for Los Angeles County sheriff, with help for the candidates falling largely alongside political traces, based on a brand new ballot by UC Berkeley co-sponsored by the Los Angeles Occasions.
Luna is favored strongly by liberals and Democrats, with 46% of voters who determine as strongly liberal saying they’d select him and solely 7% supporting Villanueva.
The sheriff, in the meantime, is extra in style amongst conservative and Republican voters: 54% of voters who described themselves as strongly conservative mentioned they’d vote to re-elect Villanueva if the election have been held in the present day. Solely 13% mentioned they’d choose Luna.
“The query then, is the place would you moderately be?” mentioned Mark DiCamillo, who directed the ballot for Berkeley’s Institute of Governmental Research and has been surveying California voters for many years.
“In L.A. County, Democrats outnumber Republicans practically 3 to 1. Villanueva just isn’t doing nicely amongst that vast constituency. That’s why I feel within the early phases right here, he’s bought some issues.”
General, 31% of L.A. County voters help Luna, whereas 27% help Villanueva, ballot outcomes present.
However with practically three months of campaigning nonetheless to go earlier than the Nov. 8 election, the race stays large open as a big section of voters — 40% — are nonetheless undecided on who they wish to head one of many nation’s largest native regulation enforcement businesses.
The ballot additionally discovered important help for a measure just lately added to the November poll that may give the county’s Board of Supervisors the power to force out a sitting sheriff. In accordance with the ballot, 52% of voters mentioned they help the concept, whereas 22% mentioned they’d vote in opposition to it. The remainder have been undecided.
Within the June major election, Villanueva and Luna emerged as clear favorites from a crowded area of candidates and advanced to a runoff. Not well-known outdoors of Lengthy Seashore, Luna shocked many along with his efficiency, ending a couple of proportion factors behind Villanueva, who gained about 31% of the vote. The tally was broadly considered as a poor end result for an incumbent sheriff and left Villanueva wanting susceptible going into the head-to-head race.
The political divisions obvious within the ballot outcomes spotlight a transparent shift in Villanueva’s base of help since 2018, when he wooed progressive Democrats with a promise to kick immigration brokers out of the L.A. County jails at a time when many left-leaning voters have been pissed off with former President Trump’s hard-line immigration insurance policies. The technique resulted in an unbelievable upset as Villanueva, a longtime registered Democrat, grew to become the primary challenger to unseat an incumbent sheriff in additional than a century.
Villanueva has since rebranded himself as a more conservative, law-and-order sheriff and candidate, making common appearances on Fox Information to rail in opposition to the “woke left” and seize on voter frustrations with homelessness and crime.
Luna, in the meantime, has spent a lot of his life registered as a Republican. He registered as a Democrat in 2020 after beforehand switching from Republican to no celebration desire in 2018, based on voter information.
Regardless of Luna’s previous affiliation as a Republican, a lot of the county’s Democratic celebration machine has begun to coalesce behind him in an effort to unseat Villanueva. The L.A. County Democratic Get together and all 5 members of the Board of Supervisors, all however considered one of whom lean left, are backing Luna. And he just lately secured the help of Lt. Eric Sturdy, who ran for sheriff within the June major as essentially the most progressive of the bunch and completed in third, receiving 16% of the vote.
Luna nonetheless lacks title recognition. The ballot outcomes present that 59% of voters don’t have an opinion of him, whereas 31% mentioned they assume favorably of him and 11% unfavorably.
Villanueva faces a starkly completely different set of challenges as a well known, polarizing candidate who’s disliked by a big part of voters. Whereas solely 31% of individuals polled mentioned that they had no opinion in regards to the sheriff, 39% of mentioned they consider him unfavorably and 30% favorably.
“Individuals don’t know a lot about sheriffs besides what they see within the information — Villanueva is all the time within the information,” mentioned Raphael J. Sonenshein, head of the Pat Brown Institute for Public Affairs at Cal State L.A. “It’s all the time type of exhausting for a challenger to get within the sport.”
However, he mentioned, “Villanueva has not likely gained floor since his disappointing exhibiting within the major.”
Most voters who stay undecided on the race additionally haven’t shaped opinions about Luna, the ballot confirmed.
“He has but to seal the deal, which might come from mobilizing all people who doesn’t need Villanueva to be reelected,” Sonenshein mentioned.
However with Luna unfamiliar to so many individuals, the ballot suggests Villanueva has a chance to attempt to outline Luna for voters earlier than Luna can introduce himself. It’s a gap Villanueva has already seized on: A couple of days earlier than the June major, his marketing campaign launched an advert — each in English and Spanish — attacking Luna as “a proper wing” Republican “pretending to be a Democrat.”
The ballot was performed Aug. 9 to fifteen amongst 4,538 L.A. County voters, 3,067 of whom have been recognized as being prone to vote within the November election. The margin of error is estimated at roughly 2.5 proportion factors in both course.
Amongst seemingly voters, Luna’s lead is wider, based on the ballot. Greater than 40% of individuals in that group mentioned they have been supporting Luna, in contrast with 29% for Villanueva. The variety of undecided voters in that group can be smaller — 28%.
Amongst all registered voters, Villanueva has a small lead over Luna amongst Latino voters, with 34% supporting Villanueva and 27% for Luna. Luna is extra in style amongst Black voters, with 37% supporting him in contrast with 17% for Villanueva. Asian voters are extra evenly divided, with 24% for Luna and 21% for Villanueva.
How Villanueva has dealt with allegations of misconduct made in opposition to deputies in his division may pose challenges for him. The ballot reveals 46% of voters don’t assume he responded to such allegations nicely, whereas a few quarter of voters assume he dealt with them nicely or very nicely. Thirty p.c had no opinion.
“Allegations of police misconduct are working in opposition to Villanueva, and that may be a marketing campaign theme, I might assume, for Luna,” DiCamillo mentioned.
Villanueva has come beneath hearth for not doing sufficient to crack down on gang-like groups of deputies who for many years have been accused of wielding important management over division stations and glorifying violence.
He’s additionally a focus in Vanessa Bryant’s ongoing civil trial against L.A. County over images deputies shared of the helicopter crash that killed her husband, Lakers star Kobe Bryant, her daughter and 7 others. When he realized of the illicit images, Villanueva tried to maintain the scandal beneath wraps, promising the deputies they wouldn’t be punished in the event that they got here clear and deleted the images. An investigation wasn’t opened till after The Occasions revealed an account of what had occurred.
And Villanueva was accused by high-ranking Sheriff’s officers of making an attempt to maintain quiet an incident the place a deputy kneeled on the head of a handcuffed inmate. The Sheriff’s Division’s dealing with of the case is the subject of a criminal grand jury investigation.
The sturdy help for the poll measure that may enable county supervisors to take away a sheriff from workplace correlates strongly with voter preferences on Villanueva and Luna: 74% of voters who again Luna additionally need the supervisors to have the ability to kick a sheriff from workplace. In the meantime, greater than half the voters who mentioned they have been voting for Villanueva have been in opposition to the measure.
That breakdown suggests voters’ willingness at hand such a unprecedented energy to the supervisors is pushed not less than partly by their views of Villanueva. The proposal stems from the board’s long-running feud with the sheriff, wherein the 2 sides have repeatedly clashed over the sheriff’s resistance to oversight, in addition to finances and hiring points.
If the constitution modification is authorised, the board would have the authority to take away a sheriff for severe misconduct, together with “flagrant or repeated neglect of duties, misappropriation of funds, willful falsification of paperwork or obstructing an investigation.”
The obstruction language is especially important as Villanueva has been accused repeatedly of flouting oversight and stonewalling county watchdogs by refusing to cooperate with their investigations. He has repeatedly refused to seem earlier than a civilian oversight panel when it has subpoenaed him to reply questions beneath oath about teams of deputies which can be mentioned to resemble road gangs, and different issues within the division.
Villanueva has known as the proposal a “low-cost political stunt” designed to harm his possibilities at getting reelected. He urged that he could mount a authorized problem, saying he believed the measure could be deemed unconstitutional by the courts.
“The Board is trying to cheat the system and create a ‘fast-track’ pathway to take away a duly elected sheriff, one which circumvents the regulation and the foundational rules of due course of enshrined within the Fourteenth Modification,” he wrote in a letter to the board.