LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) —The future of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department will be in voter’s hands Tuesday.
Long Beach Police Chief Jim McDonnell will square off against retired Undersheriff Paul Tanaka in Tuesday’s runoff election for the elected office. McDonnell has racked up an impressive number of major endorsements, include one Wednesday from interim Los Angeles County Sheriff John Scott.
“I have every confidence that Jim will make an outstanding sheriff of Los Angeles County,” Scott said. “He is the right person, at the right time, to take the leadership role and re-build this department.”
McDonnell, in a field of seven candidates, received nearly 50 percent of the vote in the primary and nearly won the election outright. He says he doesn’t think of the election as going up against a candidate, but as a goal.
“You know I honestly haven’t looked at it from the perspective of going against a candidate, I’m looking at Nov. 4 as the target date I’m shooting for,” McDonnell said.
Tanaka, who has kept a low profile since receiving just 15 percent of the votes in the June primary, has raised very little money in the runoff campaign — just $30,000 versus $1 million before the June primary. Tanaka has also been without a campaign manager, political consultants or an office since the primary, and has refused a debate with McDonnell.
“So the fact of the matter is, we never stopped campaigning, I certainly did not,” Tanaka said.
Tanaka’s history may be too much to bear for voters. Tanaka retired from the department after a fallout with his one-time friend, Sheriff Lee Baca, in the wake of an FBI probe into inmate abuse at Los Angeles County jails, an investigation he admits he was a subject.
“Of course you were going to get swept up, there were probably dozens, if not hundreds of people that the government looked at,” Tanaka said.
Tanaka was severely criticized by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors and a special blue ribbon committee made up of law enforcement experts looking at how the sheriff’s department was run. McDonnell was part of that committee, and he says he was shocked by what he found.
“I had worked along the organization for 30 plus years and did not know the extent of what was going on relative to the pay-to-play, the nepotism, the favoritism and some cases the corruption and brutality,” McDonnell said.
But Tanaka says he was not a part of any of that.
“I never condoned or tolerated misconduct, abuse of inmates,” he said.
In the past 100 years, the elected sheriff has always come from within its ranks. McDonnell says he believes having an outsider come in would help fix the problems within the department.
“The failed leadership in the organization, really, has caused a multitude of problems that are very fixable,” McDonnell said.