The sheriff’s sergeant and candidate for Palmdale City Council who was arrested last week on suspicion of child molestation was a front-runner in Tuesday’s race and now may lose the election, Palmdale politicians said Saturday.
Sgt. Kevin Wright Carney, who was released after posting bond Friday night, was among the most popular of the 13 candidates vying for two four-year seats on the City Council, Palmdale Mayor Jim Ledford said.
But with his arrest coming four days before the election and the loss of a key endorsement, Carney’s chances are doomed, Ledford said.
“He was a top prospect, but I don’t see how he’s going to win now,” said Ledford, who is running for reelection.
Assemblyman George Runner Jr. (R-Lancaster) had endorsed Carney but publicly withdrew his support Friday.
“In light of these allegations, I cannot support him,” Runner said in a statement. “And if these allegations are true, Carney must remove himself from the election.”
Carney’s campaign staffers, who insist the accusations are false, said Carney is not quitting. But the staff decided Saturday to stop making phone calls and putting up posters because they don’t want to draw more attention to Carney, said Bob Henn, assistant campaign manager.
“The way I see it, we’re probably going to lose now,” Henn said.
Carney, a 23-year veteran of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department who works at the Lancaster station, did not return phone calls Saturday. He was arrested Friday after a 14-year-old girl told detectives Carney, 48, had molested her, a Sheriff’s Department spokeswoman said Saturday.
Carney’s supporters--and even some of his political opponents--said the fact that allegations surfaced so close to the election may mean the charges were politically motivated.
Nearly the same turn of events unfolded two years ago.
Carney ran for mayor of Palmdale in 1997, and 10 days before the election, two young girls accused him of molesting them, according to a sheriff’s spokesman and Palmdale politicians.
Charges were never filed in that case, and Carney lost the election by more than 20% to incumbent mayor Ledford.
“I think it’s tragic this has happened again,” said Mike Dispenza, also a candidate for a four-year council seat. “I think a lot of people see these new charges as some sort of cheap political trick. Knowing Kevin, I just can’t believe he would do something like that.”
Carney, who lives in Palmdale, has been on the board of the Antelope Valley Union High School District for four years and once served as a Sheriff’s Department supervisor of a child-abuse investigations unit.
Neighborhood kids often hang out at his house because he has an elaborate turtle farm in his backyard, Henn said.
Sheriff’s officials said the molestation charges were not related to the local election, in which two four-year seats, a two-year seat and the mayor’s office are up for grabs on the five-seat council.
“We didn’t arrest him based on any political motivations,” said Sgt. Irma Becerra, a sheriff’s spokeswoman. “We arrested him on allegations by a 14-year-old girl.”
Councilman Joe Davies, whose retirement this year is creating one of the vacant seats, expressed doubt about the dirty politics theory but said “it is a shame this has to come up so close to the election.”