As hard as it is to believe, Election Day is just over two months away. Even harder to fathom is that some people will be picking their preferred candidates next month—vote-by-mail ballots will be arriving at homes across Los Angeles in mid-May.
In advance of the election, Los Angeles is turning a microscope on some of the most critical local contests. This week, we look at the race for the Third District seat on the County Board of Supervisors.
About the Job
The mayor of L.A. gets more attention than any other political figure in the region, but county supervisors command immense power (and, bonus, they do so with relatively little scrutiny). Really, it’s hard to overstate how important the gig is. There are just five supes, and each represents about 2 million constituents. They are in charge of a $36 billion budget and oversee the Sheriff’s Department and the Department of Public Health, among many other crucial services. For decades the supes were known as the “five little kings,” though in a refreshing sign of the times, all five supervisors are currently women.
About the District
Like all supervisorial territories, the Third is massive. As outgoing rep Sheila Keuhl points out on her website, the district has a population larger than 14 states.
The territory looks somewhat different than it did just a few months ago. The once-a-decade redistricting process that followed the 2020 U.S. Census resulted in some serious cleaving and stitching. County-run landmarks including the Hollywood Bowl and LACMA were yanked out of the Third, as were liberal-leaning enclaves such as Los Feliz. Some more conservative San Fernando Valley communities were added, among them Porter Ranch and Chatsworth. The changes, made by an independent panel, took effect in December and angered Kuehl.
The Third includes the coastal communities of Santa Monica and Malibu, as well as the cities of West Hollywood and Beverly Hills. According to documents used for the redistricting process, it is 42.7 percent white, 37.2 percent Latino, 13.1 percent Asian and 4.4 percent Black.
County Supervisor seats don’t turn over very often. Kuehl won the post in 2014, but opted not to seek a third and final term. Previously, the job was held by the political artist known as Zev Yaroslavsky, who was first elected in 1994, and would go on to serve five terms (there are now term limits, capping a run at 12 years). The occupant before Yaroslavsky was Ed Edelman, who also clocked 20 years on the job after being elected in 1974.
All this means the next person in the seat will be only the fourth supervisor in nearly 50 years.
In the Running
One interesting thing about the field is that, like the district itself, it looked drastically different a few months ago. L.A. City Controller Ron Galperin had entered the race and garnered significant attention, but he pulled out in January, and is now running for State Controller. Also dropping after the new lines were drawn was state Assemblyman Richard Bloom.
The person who has spent the most time in the race is Lindsay Horvath. A West Hollywood City Council member and former mayor of the small city, she has concentrated her candidacy on issues such as leading the county out of the COVID era, the environment and addressing homelessness. She has a battery of notable endorsements, including Kuehl, Mayor Eric Garcetti, Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia, and organizations including the Stonewall Democratic Club.
State Sen. Henry Stern bounced into the race just after the new lines were drawn. An affable former environmental attorney, he has had his current job since 2016, and represents portions of the Valley as well as neighborhoods in the eastern part of Ventura County. His touchstones are reducing homelessness and climate change; he chairs the Senate’s Natural Resources & Water Committee and has authored legislation seeking to enhance wildfire preparedness.
The best-known figure in the race is another state senator, Bob Hertzberg, who has been a force in Valley politics for decades. He’s a onetime Assembly Speaker who finished third in a 2005 run for mayor of Los Angeles. He went on to work in the clean-energy field and won his current seat in 2014. He’s packing a plethora of prominent endorsements, including County Supervisor Kathryn Barger, state Treasurer Fiona Ma and dozens of labor unions.
Others who have filed papers to run are Jeffi Girgenti, Roxanne Hoge and Craig Brill. While the unexpected can happen, none are expected to have the resources to compete with the better-known names.
How They Look
The good news for voters is that none of the three principal candidates is a dud. A March 24 online forum hosted by the Los Angeles League of Conservation Voters revealed each to be thoughtful, familiar with the territory, and able to offer big-picture ideas as well as ones that can improve residents’ daily lives. Hertzberg has more experience than Horvath and Stern, but that’s because the dude has been in politics a lot longer.
Hertzberg talked up the importance of programs that get people into home ownership, and detailed the need to create more green jobs as the economy changes. Stern lashed out at the “perverse cycle” of continuing to build housing deeper into wildfire zones, and touted the need to swap out high-polluting vehicles for those with fewer emissions. Horvath talked up an inclusionary zoning policy in West Hollywood and said one should be implemented throughout the county, and mentioned how tools such as kelp forests and seawalls can help with coastline preservation.
With election day landing June 7, each of the three main candidates—all Democrats—will be seeking to establish a base and build blocs. Much of the attention will be focused on the voter-rich Valley, and residents there can expect to see a small forest’s worth of trees turned into mailers. If polls put Hertzberg as the frontrunner, expect attacks to be directed his way.
The magic number is 50.01. If anyone gets that percentage of the vote, then they are supervisor-elect. If no one achieves a majority, the top two finishers will meet again in a November runoff, which would mean five more months of campaigning.
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