LA County Sheriff Race: Alex Villanueva, Robert Luna head to Nov. runoff

Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva will move to a November runoff election to find out if he'll be awarded a second term. He and former Long Beach Police Chief Robert Luna topped a nine-candidate field in Tuesday's election.

As of 2 a.m. Wednesday, Villanueva had 258,808 votes, or 34.38%, to Luna's 184,640 votes, or 24.53%.

"We accomplished everything we set out to do in my first term in office in terms of reforming the organization," Villanueva told FOX 11 ahead of the election. Villanueva is a 34-year law enforcement veteran. 

His first term was highlighted by clashes with the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors over things like COVID-19 vaccine mandate enforcement, and with LA County District Attorney George Gascón over policy disagreements. Most recently, Villanueva has come under fire for his handling of a use of force investigation related to a video where a sheriff's deputy is seen kneeling on an inmate's head. So far four LASD officials have sued Villanueva, alleging he covered up the incident.

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Villanueva is the incumbent in this race, assuming office in 2018 after winning nearly 53% of the vote over then-sheriff Jim McDonnell, according to Los Angeles Almanac. According to Politico, Villanueva was the first Democrat elected LA County Sheriff in nearly a century.

On his campaign website, Villanueva is running on the tenants of stopping violent crime, reducing homelessness, expanding mental healthcare, and creating a coalition to fight corruption. Villanueva has come under fire throughout his tenure as sheriff, with calls for him to resign last year, as well as four lawsuits from top LASD officials alleging Villanueva covered up a use of force investigation

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Luna is the former chief of the Long Beach Police Department. He was named chief in 2014, and served in the role until retiring in December 2021. He is a 36-year veteran of the LBPD.

Unlike the majority of the candidates on the primary ballot, Luna has never worked in the County Sheriff's Department and says that his status as an "outsider" is an asset. He says that Villanueva has created a lack of trust in the department in his first term. 

"People need to trust their law enforcement agency," Luna told FOX 11 ahead of the election. "The fact that [Villanueva] basically sticks his middle finger at anybody and everybody, we don't want our law enforcement to behave that way."

Luna argued during the campaign that the sheriff's department is being "mismanaged" by Villanueva and said he will work to restore trust in the agency. He also touted his position as an outsider with no connections to the sheriff's department.

"Growing up in East Los Angeles, patrolled by the sheriff's department, opened my eyes to examples of both good and bad policing, and inspired my 36-year career in law enforcement," Luna said in a candidate statement.

Luna's running on five issues, according to his website — reducing violent crime and property crime; addressing homelessness; restoring public trust in the Sheriff's Office; reform and modernization of the department and jails; and improving deputy wellness.

He has been endorsed by organizations like the Los Angeles Times, as well as two California Congressmen, Tony Cárdenas (D-CA 29th District) and Alan Lowenthal (D-CA 47th District). 

The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department is the largest sheriff's department in the world, according to the department, with the Sheriff overseeing about 18,000 employees.

The general election is on Nov. 8, 2022.