Paul Tanaka leads in fundraising in L.A. County sheriff's race

Paul Tanaka leads in fundraising in L.A. County sheriff's race
Paul Tanaka is a former undersheriff and current mayor of Gardena. (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

Retired Undersheriff Paul Tanaka has raised more than $900,000, maintaining his lead in the race for dollars among seven candidates for Los Angeles County sheriff.

Less than a week before the June 3 primary, Long Beach Police Chief Jim McDonnell was second with about $760,000 and Assistant Sheriff James Hellmold was third with about $440,000, according to campaign finance filings.


"Obviously, we're very pleased with the amount of money Paul has raised for the primary," said a Tanaka consultant, Reed Galen. "We believe it's allowed the candidate and the campaign to do the things we've needed to do to get our message out to voters across L.A. County."

The campaign took an unexpected turn in January when Sheriff Lee Baca retired in the wake of criminal charges against 18 Sheriff's Department employees. McDonnell was among those who jumped in after Baca's retirement, becoming the only candidate from outside the department with substantial financial support.

Tanaka's opponents have tried to link him to the allegations of brutality and obstruction of justice in the jails. At the trial of a sheriff's deputy last week, a federal prosecutor revealed that Tanaka is the subject of an ongoing federal investigation.

Assistant Sheriff Todd Rogers, whose $190,000 haul put him fifth among the seven candidates, said Tanaka needs "every dime" to overcome that stigma.

"The fact that I'm not at risk of federal indictment is probably worth half a million dollars," Rogers said.

A spokesman for Bob Olmsted, a retired sheriff's commander who has raised about $335,000 and characterizes himself as a whistle-blower, echoed Rogers' comments.

"With the culture of corruption and pay-to-play politics, it's not surprising that he continues to raise money from the minions and cronies that he has built a relationship with," the spokesman, Dave Jacobson, said of Tanaka.

Galen, Tanaka's consultant, countered that the comments were made out of desperation.

"The only thing any of us know for sure is that Todd Rogers isn't going to be the next sheriff, and nor will Bob Olmsted," Galen said. "The fact that they're attacking Paul is because they have nothing else to run on."

McDonnell's campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

Hellmold's campaign has received a $1,500 donation from actor Leonardo DiCaprio and $1,500 from the supermarket magnate and Democratic fundraiser Ron Burkle.

Mark Botnick, a Hellmold consultant, said in a statement: "Paul Tanaka has been campaigning for years, so it is certainly no surprise that he has raised more money given the length of his campaign."

The fundraising figures include contributions from January 2013 to May 17 of this year. Several candidates have the support of independent expenditure committees, which must spend their funds without consulting the candidate. One such committee, Safety First: A Committee Supporting Paul Tanaka for L.A. Sheriff, has raised $60,000 from the gaming industry and $25,000 from Navarro's Towing, campaign filings show.

Rogers has an independent expenditure committee working to elect him, as does McDonnell.

Patrick Gomez, a retired sheriff's lieutenant, has raised about $16,400, according to his campaign filing.

Lou Vince, a senior detective supervisor with the LAPD who has raised about $24,000, downplayed the importance of money. Voters are already knowledgeable about the candidates and issues, he said.

"People will vote for me because they've met me and like my ideas, not because I sent them an 8 1/2 -by-11 picture of my face," Vince said. "Obviously, I'd like to have a million dollars, but people are really informed on this one."