Candidates for the seat being vacated by Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich faced off Wednesday in a pair of forums held in northern county areas, where they sought to appeal to residents who sometimes complain that their concerns are overshadowed by those of the city of Los Angeles and surrounding communities to the south.
Antonovich will be forced out by term limits after 36 years on the county board. Ten potential candidates have filed paperwork allowing them to raise funds for the seat. Seven of those appeared at the forums put on in Santa Clarita and Lancaster by the cities’ respective chambers of commerce.
The candidates who appeared Wednesday included Antonovich’s longtime chief of staff, Kathryn Barger, gang prosecutor Elan Carr, Los Angeles City Councilman Mitch Englander, State Sen. Bob Huff, and Glendale Mayor Ara Najarian, all Republicans; and Democrats Billy Malone, a real estate broker and Altadena town council member, and Darrell Park, an entrepreneur.
The seat is officially nonpartisan but is one of two currently held by Republicans on the five-member board.
Many of the questions posed to the candidates concerned disparities in resources: bike trails in Santa Clarita that taper off when they cross into the surrounding unincorporated county area; lengthy commute times faced by Antelope Valley residents who work in Los Angeles; disparities in the regional funding that that goes to dealing with homelessness, and “disastrous county planning approvals” of urban-style developments in rural parts of the county.
Barger emphasized her experience and pointed to major businesses the county had helped court to the Antelope Valley, including the Chinese electric bus manufacturer Build Your Dreams and Japanese light rail manufacturer Kinkisharyo.
“I don’t need any on-the-job training, and I can hit the ground running,” she said.
Carr played up his experience as a prosecutor and Army veteran, pointing to rising crime and “looming threat of terrorism” and promising to put public safety first.
“These are difficult times, and all across our county, families have a sense that government is not working," he said. "This is an era of rising crime and failing schools, ballooning county debt and a crumbling county infrastructure."
Englander, Huff and Najarian pointed to their experience in elected office but also sought to appeal to the outsider mentality of the Antelope Valley.
Englander pointed out that he represents portions of the San Fernando Valley that staged an attempt to secede from the city of Los Angeles years ago -- an effort he took part in -- and said he had pioneered the practice of holding quarterly meetings with all the neighborhood councils in his district.
Huff talked about his experience growing up in rural Imperial Valley and running a business before going into politics.
Najarian occasionally played the rabble-rouser, arguing that the 5th district is too large to be governed effectively by one person and should be split in two. And he got the loudest applause of the day at the Lancaster forum, when he accused the city of Los Angeles of "dumping the homeless" on the Antelope Valley.
Malone pointed to his experience living in an unincorporated community and representing it in dealings with the county.
Park spoke optimistically of a coming boom in solar technology and industry.
"You're in paradise," he told the Lancaster crowd. "I want you to be able to stay in paradise without traveling" to go to work, school and healthcare appointments.
The deadline for candidates to file to run in the election is Friday, with the primary election on June 7.
The seat currently held by Supervisor Don Knabe, the board's other sitting Republican, is also up for election this year. Four candidates have filed paperwork to run for that seat.