Robert Luna confirmed as much as his debate with Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva on the Skirball Heart 2½ hours early. The challenger confirmed up so early that the safety guard didn’t have the VIP parking checklist but. The tech individuals within the auditorium had been nonetheless doing audio checks.
Luna walked to his inexperienced room — a closet in contrast with Villanueva’s spacious suite two doorways down. His footsteps echoed via the vacancy of the Skirball’s courtyard. That’s once I observed Luna’s footwear.
They had been brown, with thick white soles, and regarded like off-brand Prime-Siders. Center-aged, middle-class Latino males during the last decade have favored these after they wish to class up their look however don’t have the cash or hipster style sense to purchase one thing fancier.
“I grew up poor,” the retired Lengthy Seaside police chief defined. “If I ever spend greater than $100 on one thing, I instantly really feel like I did one thing fallacious.”
He regarded to his spouse, who wore a “Luna for Sheriff” marketing campaign button.
“The place did I get them — Marshalls? Macy’s? I can’t even keep in mind,” he mentioned.
Villanueva lastly confirmed up an hour earlier than the controversy, sweeping via the Skirball’s facet entrance accompanied by a safety element that appeared to continue to grow.
He solely emerged from his inexperienced room to get his make-up finished. Proper earlier than that, the sheriff scarfed down a brownie. His footwear had been standard-issue loafers as black because the footwear law enforcement officials put on.
He and Luna each sported blue ties. That was one of many few commonalities of the night.
The 2 had been dealing with off for the primary time after a nasty summer time for Villanueva. Luna had pressured him right into a runoff as Villanueva obtained the bottom proportion in a main election for an incumbent L.A. County sheriff in not less than a century.
He had simply come off a month wherein his division misplaced a $31-million lawsuit over the improper launch of pictures of the helicopter crash scene the place Kobe Bryant, daughter Gianna and 7 others perished.
And Villanueva obtained nationwide condemnation final week for a morning raid on the home of Sheila Kuehl, an L.A. County supervisor and his frequent critic. He characterised it as an investigation into public corruption, however many others noticed it as a thinly veiled witch hunt.
The sheriff had a plan for the controversy: He was going to set a double entice to embarrass Luna.
Hours earlier than they confronted off, Villanueva’s camp launched to the information media a 34-page docket titled “A File of Racial Violence and Harassment” that gathered police studies, lawsuits and extra from Luna’s decades-long profession, claiming to show the Lengthy Seaside Police Division’s “disturbing anti-Black historical past.”
What he didn’t inform the media was that he was additionally going to supply a treatise on how he’s extra Latino than Luna.
Strategically, it appeared an excellent transfer. This 12 months has seen Villanueva stricken by accusations by activists and members of his personal division that he has an animus towards Black individuals. Polls present that Black voters assist Villanueva the least, whereas Latinos assist him essentially the most. If he can painting Luna as anti-Black and a whitewashed Latino, he’ll be capable of shore up his assist with two voting blocs important to his reelection.
The talk was sharp and heated. Massive subjects had been mentioned — homelessness, deputy gangs, public corruption — however then forged apart in favor of private assaults. Villanueva referred to as Luna a “puppet” and accused him of utilizing buzzwords. Luna referred to as his opponent’s propensity to lie “scary” a number of occasions and stored his cool, regardless of fixed goading by Villanueva.
When Villanueva lastly unveiled his two-pronged ethnic technique, he failed. Badly.
He stored attacking Luna whereas not responding to questions by the moderators. His anti-Black allegations went nowhere.
When Villanueva tried to assault Luna’s Latino credentials, he uncovered himself as a petty pendejo.
At one level, a Univison anchor posed a public security query from a viewer. Villanueva answered in technically good Spanish.
However his accent appeared like that of a white man who realized español from a flowery faculty, not the streets.
Luna, when requested to translate what Villanueva mentioned, declined, hinting that his Spanish perhaps wasn’t the most effective. However so what? He’s identical to tens of millions of Latinos.
Villanueva’s largest swing concerned his spouse, Vivian. At one level, he rattled off the names of all the colleges in East Los Angeles she attended, from elementary via Cal State L.A.
“That’s what’s referred to as born and raised in East L.A. actually means,” the sheriff mentioned, gesturing at Luna. “You wish to speak about integrity — you may wish to make clear the place you had been raised and what colleges you went to.”
When a moderator requested whether or not Luna had integrity, Villanueva responded, “He must make clear the place he was raised.”
The implication: Luna was making an attempt to decorate his Eastlos credentials to attempt to make himself extra Latino than he actually was.
Luna stumbled for a bit, then admitted his sin. Sure, he began out in East L.A. However after his mother and father obtained some cash, they purchased a house in Santa Fe Springs, and he went to center and highschool there.
Santa Fe Springs, by the way in which, is the place Villanueva’s marketing campaign headquarters are.
What a burn.
Co-moderator Elex Michaelson of Fox 11 requested what was the purpose of Villanueva’s roll name.
“As a result of he claimed that in East L.A., he noticed deputies at work, and he knew cop from a nasty cop,” Villanueva replied. “And I actually had doubt once you’re that younger, you may perceive the distinction of the 2.”
Luna responded by name-checking one of the crucial infamous incidents within the historical past of the L.A. County Sheriff’s Division: the 1970 Chicano Moratorium, when deputies brutalized peaceable anti-Vietnam Warfare protesters and killed Occasions columnist Ruben Salazar with a tear gasoline canister to the pinnacle.
“Once you see deputies utilizing pressure on individuals with batons, I don’t find out about any of you within the crowd, I by no means forgot that,” he replied. “So once more, we now have the sheriff of L.A. County, who’s supposed to speak about deputy-involved shootings, pure disasters and all these essential incidences — and he’s making up info proper right here in entrance of all of you.”
Not solely was Luna not rattled by Villanueva’s assault, however he returned to his Santa Fe Springs teenage years when requested whether or not the Sheriff’s Division ought to use various methods, moreover violence, when stopping Latinos on bicycles — a scandal beneath Villanueva.
“I’m speaking to you as an individual who, as a 13-year-old, was using a bicycle and obtained tossed face first into the hood of a sheriff’s automotive once I was in center faculty in Santa Fe Springs, when the sheriffs had that contract there,” he mentioned. “I’ve seen it from the opposite facet. It doesn’t really feel good.”
Villanueva had no reply.
On the finish, the moderators tried to do some lighthearted fast questions that uncovered extra of every candidate’s Latino credentials.
Favourite TV exhibits? Each answered “Massive Bang Concept,” which stunned them to the purpose they high-fived one another. Who mentioned Latinos can’t be nerds?
Favourite band? Luna answered with ranchera icon Vicente Fernández. Villanueva’s response was Maná, the ersatz U2 of Mexico.
Favourite sports activities staff? Villanueva went with the Dodgers. Luna mentioned Dodgers and Lakers.
¿Quien es más Latino? Solely Villanueva cares. His flexes had been so weak salsa that they made Tempo Picante Sauce appear as fiery as Tapatío.