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L.A.’s Sheriff Baca Takes Big Lead in Bid for Reelection

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Times Staff Writers

Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca, despite virtually no campaigning, took a commanding lead in Tuesday’s election, garnering about two-thirds of the vote while his four opponents split the rest.

And in the Long Beach mayor’s race -- the most hotly contested in Los Angeles County -- former Southern California Edison president Bob Foster was handily leading two-term Councilman Frank Colonna. Foster declared victory with about half the ballots counted.

One of the Long Beach City Council races -- between Gerrie Schipske and Jackie Kell -- was extremely close well into the night.

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In the sheriff’s race, Baca’s four challengers were hampered by the difficulty of getting out their messages to voters in the nation’s most populous county. Adding to their problems was Baca’s name recognition after eight years in office.

“It’s obviously going to be a landslide,” Baca said a few minutes after the polls closed Tuesday night. Baca, who had been criticized for problems in the jail system, including his decision to release many inmates early to avoid overcrowding, said he hoped that within four years, inmates would be serving all of their jail time.

To achieve that goal, the jail system needs to expand from its current 18,000 beds to 30,000 beds, he said.

“When a person commits the crime, they should do the time,” Baca said. “I know what 100% means in dollars and cents. It’s a very costly goal.”

Baca said the two Sheriff’s Department employees who ran against him in the election -- Capt. Ray Leyva and Sgt. Paul Jernigan -- might want to consider leaving their jobs.

“There’s no question about the fact that people at the lower level of the organization distorted what the department’s achievements are and undermined the effectiveness of the organization,” Baca said. “That is not good leadership.”

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In other county races, the two incumbent supervisors -- Gloria Molina and Zev Yaroslavsky -- were coasting to reelection, far outstripping their challengers. Incumbent Assessor Rick Auerbach also was leading by a wide margin.

In a surprise turn, Judge Dzintra Janavs, who has sat on the bench for 20 years, was trailing a little-known lawyer, Lynn Diane Olson. Given Janavs’ distinguished career on the bench, several observers speculated that she was targeted because of her unusual name. Many voters are known to pick judicial candidates based on little more information than their names and occupations.

In Ventura County, two incumbent supervisors -- Linda Parks in the 2nd District and Judy Mikels in the 4th faced challenges. Parks was winning, but, just after midnight, Mikels was trailing both of her opponents and in danger in losing her seat outright.

In Long Beach, Foster quickly thanked his supporters at an election-night victory party.

“I’m grateful to the citizens of Long Beach for responding to the call to celebrate our successes but face our most serious issues,” he said. “I think that speaks well of their character.”

Long Beach was among the seven cities and 10 school districts across Los Angeles County holding elections the same day as the California primary.

Included was Artesia, where voters in the early going were turning down a ban on fireworks, and El Monte, where a proposed public safety parcel tax was falling short of the needed two-thirds margin.

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And voters in the sprawling Los Angeles Unified School District chose Monica Garcia, 38, to replace her former boss, Jose Huizar, who left the school board when he was elected to the Los Angeles City Council late last year.

Her runoff opponent, Christopher Arellano, withdrew from the race after admitting that he had lied about completing graduate degrees, though his name remained on the ballot.

After winning strong support from the potent teachers union and other groups, Arellano’s campaign imploded when he said he had lied about completing graduate degrees at USC and after reports surfaced that he had twice been convicted of shoplifting.

Arellano won enough votes in a March special election to narrowly force a runoff with Garcia, but had not campaigned and announced his wish to drop out of the race. Garcia, who will represent a district that stretches from Boyle Heights to Mid-Wilshire and includes Chinatown, Koreatown and the Pico-Union area, ran a scaled-back campaign after the revelations about Arellano.

Nine other school districts asked voters to approve bond measures to expand or update campus facilities.

Local school bond measures require 55% voter approval for passage. Late Tuesday night, roughly half the measures were passing.

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Eleven candidates were competing in a special Long Beach election for the 2nd District council seat vacated when Councilman Dan Baker resigned in February over a land deal with the police union president.

In runoffs for two other council seats, telecommunications business owner Gary DeLong was defeating lawyer Audrey Stephanie Loftin in the 3rd District.

In the 5th District, Kell -- prohibited by term limits from appearing on the ballot -- was locked in a neck-and-neck contest with teachers union lawyer Schipske.

Four years ago, Mayor Beverly O’Neill won reelection in a write-in campaign, but she decided to retire after three terms in the city’s top elected post.

In the Long Beach mayor’s race, Foster, 59, dominated Colonna, 62, by 48% to 28% in the five-man primary race to replace O’Neill. Foster also vastly outspent the two-term councilman, according to city campaign finance records.

A former Sacramento energy consultant and lobbyist who joined Edison in 1984 and retired last year to run for mayor, Foster had the endorsement of the police and fire unions and the Greater Long Beach Area Chamber of Commerce.

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Colonna was endorsed by O’Neill and former Gov. George Deukmejian, a Long Beach resident since his storefront lawyer days in Belmont Shore. The candidate grew up in Long Beach and worked as a city environmental officer before going into real estate. He lives in a beachfront home several houses down from O’Neill.

Foster installed carpet and linoleum to put himself through college and buy extras as he started as a legislative aide in the capital.

He moved to Long Beach nine years ago just across Alamitos Bay from Colonna, to the Naples neighborhood lined with canals and moored boats.

In Ventura County, a hard-fought battle for the 2nd District supervisor’s seat based in Simi Valley pitted Mikels against two well-financed opponents.

She was on the defensive on a number of issues brought up by challengers Jim Dantona, a Democratic political consultant, and Peter Foy, an insurance broker.

Among other claims, Dantona said that Mikels was unfit for office because she spent too much time at a second home in Tucson and that she was too cozy with developers and business interests.

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In a second race, first-term Supervisor Parks was trying to defend her seat against challenger Joe Gibson, a longtime community volunteer and chairman of the local park district.

An initiative in Santa Paula again tested residents’ tolerance for new development. Voters there were deciding whether 2,100 homes should be built in Fagan Canyon just north of the city. Two months ago, voters rejected a luxury home community adjacent to Fagan Canyon.

Fagan Canyon’s developers have spent more than $1 million and enlisted the help of the City Council and numerous civic groups to win voters’ support.

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