Longtime Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich won't leave office until the end of next year. But the race to succeed him already has drawn seven candidates, with one high-profile elected official expected to join the field any day and another seriously considering running.
Given that this will be the first time in more than 35 years Antonovich won't be on the ballot, some observers predict the number of hopefuls will at least double by the close of the candidate filing period early next year.
FOR THE RECORD:
Board of Supervisors election: An article in the April 13 California section about candidates seeking election to the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors misstated Supervisor Don Knabe's district. It is the 4th District, not the 3rd. —
Thus far, the top-tier candidates for an officially nonpartisan seat are, like the termed-out Antonovich, Republicans, a testament to the sprawling 5th District's status as a final GOP stronghold in an increasingly Democratic county.
Among those who've filed preliminary campaign paperwork with election officials is state Sen. Robert Huff (R-Diamond Bar), the minority floor leader. He kicked off his campaign Thursday with a news conference in Monrovia that emphasized his ties to the San Gabriel Valley, part of the district he and his wife have moved into so he can run.
Other GOP candidates are Kathryn Barger, a longtime Antonovich aide who has received the supervisor's endorsement; Deputy Dist. Atty. Elan Carr, a social moderate who demonstrated a strong fundraising ability in a Westside congressional race last year and has since moved into the 5th District; and Glendale Councilman Ara Najarian, an attorney with deep roots in the area's large, politically active Armenian community.
Many observers expect Los Angeles City Councilman Mitchell Englander, who represents the San Fernando Valley and is City Hall's only elected Republican, to enter the race in the coming days. Through a spokeswoman, Englander on Friday repeated his earlier statement that he was "honored and flattered that so many people have asked me to consider running.... It is a very serious decision and not one that I would take lightly."
Assemblyman Scott Wilk (R-Santa Clarita) said through a spokeswoman Friday that he is "taking a serious look" at entering the race. "He feels it's important that the northern part of the county has a voice," spokeswoman Lisa Johnson said.
The race is likely to be highly competitive because there is no perceived front-runner, said Jaime Regalado, professor emeritus of political science at Cal State L.A.
"No giant-killer has announced so far," Regalado said.
That stands in contrast, he noted, to the early field in Supervisor Don Knabe's 4th District, the only other open seat on the five-member board next year. There, Rep. Janice Hahn (D-San Pedro), a former L.A. councilwoman whose father held a seat on the county board for decades, has a clear advantage. Knabe could be the last in a long line of Republicans to hold the seat, Regalado said.
FOR THE RECORD
April 13, 1:15 p.m.: An earlier version of this article misstated Supervisor Don Knabe's district. It is the 4th District, not the 3rd.
The only other candidates so far are South Bay Republicans — former Redondo Beach Mayor Mike Gin and former Manhattan Beach Mayor Steve Napolitano, a senior aide to Knabe.
"Hahn scared off a number of people," Regalado said. "She has a huge name and major endorsements and she can raise bucks, plus she's got labor solidly behind her. Then you have two Republicans who are splitting the vote — it's almost absurd."
Democratic political consultant Eric Hacopian, who has run many races in the area but is not working for any of the announced candidates for Antonovich's seat, said the winner in that district is likely to be a Republican. But, he added, one who is "far less conservative" than Antonovich. He also predicted the race won't be settled in the primary.
"You'll have a lot of candidates and four or five with a legitimate shot at making the runoff," Hacopian said. Their success, he added, will depend on whether they can build a sufficient coalition — geographic, ethnic or ideological — in the huge, diverse district stretching from La Verne in the San Gabriel Valley through the Antelope Valley.
Three others who've taken official steps to enter the race are Palmdale businessman Raj Pal Kahlon, a Democrat who ran against Antonovich four years ago; Altadena Town Council member and Realtor Billy Malone, and South Pasadena engineer/businessman Alan S. Reynolds, who ran in the primary for state lieutenant governor last year. Malone and Reynolds are not registered with a political party.