Sheriff Alex Villaneuva concedes; Robert Luna elected as LA's next sheriff

Los Angeles County will have a new sheriff in town. Quite literally, as retired Long Beach police chief Robert Luna edged out incumbent Alex Villanueva for the LA County Sheriff's seat.

On Tuesday, Sheriff Alex Villaneuva conceded defeat in his reelection bid.

Following Election Day, Luna come out as the front-runner in the race. 

Updated numbers from the county Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk's Office show that Luna had 987,730 votes (59.8%) while Villanueva had 662,893 (40.1%). 

Luna released a statement saying in part, "I’m deeply honored and humbled that you have elected me as your next Sheriff. With your vote, you have entrusted me with a clear mandate to bring new leadership and accountability to the Sheriff’s Department. And that’s exactly what I will do."

Villanueva conceded during a press conference Tuesday. "I want to wish the incoming sheriff well," Villanueva said. "I want him to succeed for a simple reason -- the safety of the community depends on him succeeding. The welfare of every single person on the department depends on him succeeding.

During the conference, Villanueva blamed his loss on what he called a sweeping misinformation campaign and the use of "false narratives" focused on issues including alleged deputy gangs, his alleged resistance of oversight by the county and Civilian Oversight Commission and other allegations of internal harassment and retaliation against purported whistleblowers.

He said he was victimized by a "weaponized political machine" operated by the county, which he described as a "corrupt criminal enterprise."

He then rattled off a list of what he called major accomplishments during his tenure, including addressing homelessness, revising body-worn camera program, reinstating the issuance of concealed weapon permits and managing the jail system during the COVID-19 pandemic.

His defeat marks the second straight election in which an incumbent sheriff was unseated, something that hadn't occurred for roughly a century prior. Villaneuva ousted Sheriff Jim McDonnell four years ago.

Luna's victory comes after a months-long battle against Villanueva after the two candidates finished with the two highest votes in the June election. Leading up to Tuesday's November election, Luna blamed the incumbent candidate of eroding the public's trust of LASD, pointing out the department's role in handling of the Sheila Kuehl investigation back in September 2022 and the deputy gangs allegations.

"I strongly believe the Attorney General stripped the Sheriff of this investigation because the Sheriff had no business investigating this from the very beginning," Luna said of the Kuehl investigation back in September 2022. "You cannot investigate your political opponents or enemies… This is why the public trust has been eroded."

Luna also said back in the Sept. 2022 Sheriff debate that federal and state intervention were necessary in investigating the deputy gangs allegations.

"We have to show the public that they can trust us, and right now, they don't," Luna said in September 2022.

Villanueva, who is at the center of the deputy gangs scandal, have vehemently dismissed the credibility of the allegations. He compared the deputy gang allegations to unicorns

"Everybody knows what a unicorn looks like, but I challenge you, name one," he said back in September 2022.

Luna received endorsements from former Sheriff candidates, Eri Strong, Cecil Rhambo, Karla Carranza, Britta Steinbrenner, Eli Vera, Matt Rodriguez and April Saucedo Hood. He also received formal backing from LA Mayor Eric Garcetti, five LA City councilmembers, Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia and all nine of the city's council members.