LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Voters again chose Long Beach police Chief Jim McDonnell to serve as Los Angeles County’s next sheriff in Tuesday’s runoff election against retired Undersheriff and Gardena Mayor Paul Tanaka.
McDonnell, who nearly won outright with nearly 50 percent of the vote in June’s primary, owned 76 percent of votes cast Tuesday by 10 p.m.
“I couldn’t have predicted this on my best day,” McDonnell said. “This is really amazing. A lot of things converged to allow this to happen, but there’s an opportunity here. This is a critical time in the history of Los Angeles, and there’s an opportunity for us, I think, to be able to restore public trust in the LASD, a great organization, and make everybody proud.”
Since the June primary, when he picked up 15 percent in a seven-way race, Tanaka has maintained a low profile during the runoff campaign. He has raised just $27,000 in campaign donations between July 1 to Oct. 18, according to campaign finance filings, compared to McDonnell’s $620,000 during the same time period. Tanaka, who retired from the department in 2013 after serving more than 30 years, also dismissed his campaign staffers and declined request for debates since the primary.
Heading into the June primary, McDonnell was the only outsider vying for the post vacated by four-term Sheriff Lee Baca, who retired in January amid a federal probe into deputy-on-inmate violence and corruption. As Los Angeles County sheriff-elect, McDonnell will be the first to occupy the office in 100 years from outside the department.
McDonnell, a 29-year Los Angeles Police Department veteran who served as second-in-command to then-Chief Bill Bratton, seeks big changes for the embattled department.
“I look forward to ushering in a new era at LASD, continuing to move the department beyond past problems and restoring the trust of the community,” McDonnell said.
McDonnell told civil rights advocates he would support a citizens’ commission to oversee the department, but has not yet decided whether he would back subpoena power for such a group.
Tuesday’s election may be the easiest hurdle for the new sheriff to clear. The Department of Justice has said it will seek federal court oversight of the jails based on the treatment of mentally ill inmates. A half-dozen deputies have already been convicted of obstruction of justice for hiding an inmate witness from the FBI, and other indictments are pending for corruption and civil rights abuses.
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