Democrat Jeffrey Prang holds slim lead in L.A. County assessor race

L.A. County assessor candidate Jeffrey Prang, a Democratic West Hollywood councilman and special assistant in the assessor's office, is maintaining a slim lead over challenger John Morris.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

In the only Los Angeles County election that remained too close to call Wednesday, county assessor candidate Jeffrey Prang maintained a small lead over challenger John Morris.

Of 875,870 votes counted as of Wednesday evening, Prang, a special assistant in the assessor’s office, received 50.5%, giving him a 9,036-vote lead over Morris, a head deputy to the Los Angeles County district attorney.

All votes cast in county precincts on Tuesday had been counted, but more than 247,000 others — including vote-by-mail ballots handed in on Election Day, provisional ballots and write-in ballots — remained untabulated, according to county Registrar-Recorder Dean C. Logan.

“It’s still up in the air,” Morris said in an interview Wednesday afternoon, noting the substantial number of outstanding ballots.


Prang said Wednesday that he was “very pleased to have finished in first place” and felt confident that his lead would continue to hold.

“I’m happy to remain patient a little bit longer to ensure that the democratic process works,” he said.

Both candidates said they did not yet know whether they would want to request a recount.

Fernando Guerra, director of the Center for the Study of Los Angeles at Loyola Marymount University, said the assessor’s race is probably so tight because voters in the countywide contest knew very little about the two candidates before heading to the polls.

“When you do a random selection, you get 50-50,” Guerra said.

The next set of results will be released Friday at 1 p.m., and after that, on Monday at 1 p.m, according to election officials.

The assessor appraises homes, business property and other real estate, as well as taxable property, so county officials can collect taxes that help run the nation’s largest county government. Current Assessor John Noguez is on paid leave, awaiting trial on charges that he took bribes in exchange for lowering property valuations.

Prang was endorsed by most of the current and incoming county supervisors, the county Democratic Party and a wide swath of business and labor groups. Morris, a registered Republican who has pledged to protect Proposition 13, has gained the support of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Assn. and won editorial endorsements from several media outlets including The Times.


During his campaign, Prang pointed to his experience in the assessor’s office and in previous jobs as assistant city manager in Pico Rivera and as a special assistant in the county Sheriff’s Department. Morris has drawn attention to Prang’s relationship with Noguez, who hired him before he went on leave in mid-2012. Morris has worked as a white-collar criminal prosecutor and manager in the district attorney’s office, and as a real estate lawyer.

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Times staff writer Abby Sewell contributed to this report.