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Janice Hahn for the Board of Supervisors

Janice Hahn for the Board of Supervisors
Supervisorial candidate Janice Hahn is greeted after a debate in May. (Los Angeles Times)

The race to succeed Don Knabe on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors has given voters little reason for enthusiasm; none of the original three candidates seemed likely to be either a disastrous failure or a visionary leader.

The Times endorsed Rep. Janice Hahn (D-San Pedro) in the June primary in part because she was better than the others at articulating the needs of the homeless, the addicted, the jailed, the ill, the poor and others for whom county government provides the safety net and, ideally, a ladder into a better life. Yet now that the race is down to Hahn and Knabe aide Steve Napolitano, mustering enthusiasm remains difficult.

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By all accounts, Napolitano served capably while on the Manhattan Beach City Council, and was likewise a capable member of Knabe's staff. Hahn served on the Los Angeles City Council before moving on to Congress.

As The Times noted before the primary, the question comes down to who is the best bet to bring change to a bureaucracy-plagued county culture. Is it Napolitano, an aide to a supervisor who has been there for 20 years? Or Hahn, an ostensible outsider who just happens to be the daughter of the late and legendary Supervisor Kenneth Hahn, after whom the county headquarters is named?

The Times is sticking with Hahn in the hope that she will blossom in the job she has long sought, and in the conviction that L.A. County government is in need of a change more sweeping than Napolitano would be likely to bring.

That said, the people of the Fourth District deserve choices that better meet the needs of its widely divergent communities. A representative of Long Beach, for example, would likely have different priorities and a different perspective than a representative of Diamond Bar or Rolling Hills Estates. And a supervisor who must represent each of those communities and about three dozen others would have a difficult enough task even without a hide-bound county culture. For now, though, we have the system we have, and we call on Hahn to do her best to help make it work.

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