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L.A. County sheriff's race heads to November runoff

L.A. County sheriff's race will have a Nov. 4 runoff election between Jim McDonnell and Paul Tanaka
Jim McDonnell finished the county sheriff's primary with 49% of the vote, Paul Tanaka had 15%

With final election results certified Monday, Jim McDonnell's margin of victory in the Los Angeles County sheriff's race fell just short of 50%, putting him in a Nov. 4 runoff against former undersheriff Paul Tanaka.

As nearly 153,000 remaining absentee and provisional ballots were counted after the June 3 primary, McDonnell's percentage inched up, but the final tally had him about 4,450 votes short of an outright win.

McDonnell, who is chief of police in Long Beach, got over 49% of the vote, compared with 15% for Tanaka, in a field of seven candidates.

Four of the five losing candidates have endorsed McDonnell, who also gained key law enforcement endorsements, including both Sheriff's Department unions, the LAPD union and the Long Beach police union, in the days after the primary.

McDonnell and Tanaka are running to replace longtime Sheriff Lee Baca, who abruptly retired in January after scandals involving questionable hiring practices and alleged brutality in the jails.

If McDonnell wins, he will be the first sheriff in a century to be elected from outside the department.

Tanaka retired in 2013, at Baca's request, amid concerns about jail violence as well as his cliquish management style. He still serves as mayor of Gardena. In court recently, he admitted that he is a subject of an ongoing federal investigation into obstruction of justice.

Turnout in November is expected to be higher than the 17% of county voters who cast ballots in the primary. Steve Barkan, a McDonnell campaign consultant, said his client is in an "extremely strong position."

"The chief doesn't take anything for granted. He's going to run a strong campaign," Barkan said.

Tanaka could not be reached for comment.

cindy.chang@latimes.com

Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times
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