The race for one of the three seats up for grabs on the powerful Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors appeared poised for a runoff, with partial election returns showing L.A. City Councilman Herb Wesson and state Sen. Holly Mitchell leading in the 2nd Supervisorial District.
Along with former L.A. City Councilwoman Jan Perry, the longtime politicians sought to muscle their way into the seat being vacated by a termed-out Mark Ridley-Thomas. Four lesser-known candidates also ran.
If no candidate wins more than 50% of the vote, the top two finishers will go to a runoff in November.
“I feel good, I’m on the board,” said Mitchell, speaking by phone Tuesday night after early results were posted. “I’m cautiously optimistic.”
“I believe the voters are putting me through to the next round,” Wesson told The Times by phone after speaking to supporters at his campaign headquarters. “I led this campaign not with my head, but with my heart, and I believe we made a real connection with the voters.”
The race was the most closely watched of three county supervisor contests on Tuesday. Incumbents Kathryn Barger and Janice Hahn were leading in their respective races, according to partial returns.
The five-member Board of Supervisors represents 10 million people and oversees a $36-billion budget, the county’s jails and hospitals, and social services.
In the 2nd District race, homelessness, rising housing prices and gentrification were the dominant issues, as the district, which covers much of South L.A., Culver City and Carson, has the largest homeless population in the county.
Wesson’s fundraising edge made him the target of attacks, with both Mitchell and Perry questioning his record on affordable housing and homelessness.
The former City Council president and Assembly speaker pulled in more than $1.5 million, while the L.A. County Federation of Labor spent another $1.5 million through an independent committee to support his bid, said Federation of Labor political director Devin Osiri. The Assn. for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs State PAC gave $500,000 to the committee led by the federation, while Service Employees International Union Local 721 gave $400,000.
Mitchell, who raised $985,000, also benefited from outside money. An independent committee — with major funders that include Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers West and Planned Parent Advocacy Project — spent more than $450,000 in the race, said Tina McKinnor, principal officer of the committee.
In the final weeks of the primary race, Perry’s campaign stepped up attacks on Wesson, sending mailers that alleged the councilman is being investigated by the FBI.
The mailers quoted a 2019 Times story about a search warrant served in connection with the FBI probe into City Councilman Jose Huizar. The Times reported that investigators were looking for possible evidence involving a dozen people, including Deron Williams, Wesson’s chief of staff. Wesson’s name, however, doesn’t appear in the search warrant and his attorney told The Times last year that the councilman was only a witness in its investigation. No one has been arrested or charged in connection with the probe.
Hahn, who has endorsed Wesson, defended the councilman. Speaking on robocalls to district voters, Hahn called the mailers a “last-minute smear,” and pointed to Wesson’s support from law enforcement groups.
Meanwhile, partial returns showed Hahn coasting to victory over challenger and attorney Desiree Washington, as she sought to retain her district seat. The county’s 4th Supervisorial District covers Diamond Bar, Downey, San Pedro and Marina del Rey.
And in the county’s 5th district, Barger also was leading over John C. Harabedian, mayor of Sierra Madre, and educator Darrell Park. The district stretches from Lancaster to Pasadena and takes in Santa Clarita and San Dimas.
Measure FD, a parcel tax that would raise an estimated $134 million annually for the Los Angeles County Fire Department was falling short of the two-thirds approval needed to pass. Only voters who live in areas served by the L.A. County Fire Department, which include the unincorporated county and 58 cities that contract with the county for fire protection and emergency services, cast ballots on the measure.
Another ballot measure, Measure R, was ahead in partial returns. It would allow the Los Angeles County Sheriff Civilian Oversight Commission to subpoena witnesses and documents during its investigations. It would also authorize the commission to develop a plan to reduce jail populations and reinvest savings into other preventative services.