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The L.A. TACO Voter Guide: A ‘Progressive Sheriff’ Candidate and a ‘People’s Judge’

Our local elected officials talk about holding the police and Sheriffs departments accountable for breaking the law, terrorizing communities, being in gangs, and taking so much of our tax dollars. Still, there’s often a lot of talk with minimal action to back it up and do something about it. But everyday folks have some amount of power to hold at least the Sheriff's Department accountable by voting on who will lead the department and who will be the judges of the law in trial courts throughout the county by voting on trial court judges. 

Here are those candidates for this year’s primary:

Sheriff Candidates

Karla Carranza

Carranza is a supervisor at the Twin Towers Correction Facility, the panopticon hellscape prison downtown that a county health care worker called a “human rights disaster.” When speaking to LAist for a story about the horrible conditions in the jail, Carranza wants more personnel in the LASD. She also wants to recall L.A. District Attorney George Gascon. Still, she also intends to replace most of the supervisors in the LASD.         

April Saucedo Hood

April Saucedo Hood is a State Parole Agent. Saucedo Hood wants more cops patrolling “hot-spots” throughout the county and start a program where deputies have food and care packages to give to unhoused people. She wants to disband the department’s Public Corruption Unit, gives their caseload to the FBI or the state’s Department of Justice, and give their budget to the Sheriff's department. Oh! With fewer watchdogs and oversight watching out for the rampant corruption in L.A., maybe a new corruption scandal can erupt, and L.A. TACO and Neon Hum can make a second award-nominated season of The Sellout!  

Robert Luna

Luna is the former chief of the Long Beach Police Department and one of the leading contenders in this race. Luna is running as the liberal reformist to current Sheriff Alex Villanueva’s fascistic macho tough guy in cowboy hat pose. He calls out Villanueva’s leadership as chaotic and dysfunctional and chastises him for not recognizing that there are, in fact, sheriff deputy gangs and doing something about them. He doesn’t support the recall of Gascon. 

Luna wants to “promote a culture within the Sheriff’s Department that promotes a reverence for life and well-being for everyone that we encounter, especially those suffering from mental health issues, substance use, or homelessness,” as well as call in the state and the feds to investigate deputy gangs. Long Beach community groups and activists are quick to point out. 

However, those multiple scandals surrounded LBPD under Luna’s leadership. Like LBPD officers and Luna’s use of a self-deleting messaging app called TigerText to hide their conversations from the public eye and public records or the department spending millions of dollars on surveillance technology like license plate readers (whose information was shared with federal immigration enforcement agencies). A May 2020 Long Beach City Attorney Office’s report said the city spent more than 31 million dollars since 2014 to settle 61 excessive force and wrongful death suits against the police department, some of which happened before Luna’s leadership.

Cecil Rhambo

Rhambo is the LAX Police Chief with a very big bushy mustache like you imagine a cop would have in the 70s. Rhambo is not supporting the Gascon recall effort, and he also wants to beef up the department’s Homicide and Gang Bureaus. In 2012 Witness LA found a picture of Rhambo with Paula Tanaka, former undersheriff and alleged member of the white supremacist deputy gang the Lynwood Vikings, throwing up a sign. Not to mention that Rhambo was an assistant sheriff in command during Sheriff Lee Baca’s administration, an administration noted for its hyper-violent abuse of inmates in LA County Jails, which Rhambo was put in charge of.        

During his time in the Sheriff’s Department, Rhambo was also involved in three shootings in three years. Two involved friendly fire incidents with other LASD deputies, and one involved a botched robbery event against Rhambo where Rhambo shot but didn’t kill the robber. 

Matt Rodriguez

Rodriquez is running to the right of Villanueva. He’s an LASD captain that’s a big recall Gascon guy. He doesn’t support the COVID-19 vaccine mandate for LASD and other government employees, plus he wants to hire 700 more deputies for the department. 

Britta Steinbrenner 

Steinbrenner retired from the County Services Bureau a couple of months ago, where she served as a captain. She was also the Incident Commander during the Black Lives Matter protests in 2020. Steinbrenner wants to do away with deputy gangs by having anti-deputy gang training sessions for deputies. She wants to turn county facilities into mental health and drug and alcohol rehab centers and make patrol stations more like community centers. She believes that homeless people need services in jail, not housing, first. Something as cruel as it also doesn’t work in getting people housed. 

Eric Strong

Strong is the only candidate in the race running as a much different—some might even call progressive—or left-of-center candidate for sheriff. Strong has been in law enforcement for over 30 years. First in the Compton Police Department and then the LASD, he’s now a supervisory lieutenant. Strong not only wants to ban deputy gangs, but he also wants to shut down Men’s Central Jail and for the county to not rebuild another jail in its place. Strong has talked about working with the FBI and the state and federal DOJs to conduct investigations on deputy gangs and use his position to fire deputies identified as gang members. He also supports a charter amendment to be able to impeach elected sheriffs.        

Eli Vera

Vera has spent 32 years in LASD, and now he’s running just a little bit to the center of Matt Rodriquez, but not by very much. He wants to increase funding for LASD, and he wants to recall Gascon. Oh, and in 1999 he was one of two deputies that shot and killed 16-year-old Julio Castillo

Alex Villanueva

Last but certainly not least, Alex Villanueva, the current Sheriff. Villanueva came up through the Democratic Party’s political machine and was elected in 2018 as a reformer to the pervasively corrupt, hyper-violent, and out-of-control Sheriff's Department. Still, in his four years of office, he’s risen to the occasion by somehow being even more corrupt, hyper-violent, and out of control. Listing his many scandals would take pages and pages of space to list in full. Still, to list just a few, Villanueva refuses to acknowledge the existence of deputy gangs, much less do anything about them, to the point where he’s repeatedly refused to cooperate with the LASD inspector general. 

He’s also repeatedly lied about covering up allegations of abuse against jail inmates, and he’s viciously gone after journalists who reported on those abuses. Not to mention the high profile deputy killings of Angelenos like Dijon Kizzee, David Order Jr., Andres Guardado, and many others, with some family members alleging that deputies stalk and harass the families of victims of police violence. Then there’s the very likely unconstitutional and racist stop and frisk of Black and Latinx bicyclists that Villanueva’s administration has pioneered. Villanueva’s administration is so bad that the state’s Attorney General, Xavier Becerra, launched a civil rights investigation against the department last year to determine if the LASD “engaged in a pattern of unconstitutional policing.” That’s a lot of shit for just four years in office, and maybe that’s enough.  

L.A. Superior Court Judge Candidates

Office No. 3

Your three candidates for this seat are Frank Amador, a bankruptcy lawyer who doesn’t have campaign material. Tim Reuben, a business lawyer who is pro-COVID vaccines, and Hon. Sherilyn Peace Garnett, the current superior court judge. Knock LA recommended Reuben.  

Office No. 60  

The candidates here are Abby Barron, a child molestation prosecutor for the L.A. County District Attorney’s Office. Barron volunteered with crime victims advocates and was endorsed by the L.A. Times.  Deputy District Attorney Sharon Ransom is also running. She says she’ll bring “progressive values” to the position. Anna Reitano is a deputy public defender who wants to bring awareness and care to people struggling with mental illness and in the courtroom under consideration. Knock LA recommended her. Mark Rosenfeld is a DUI defense specialist running for the position who says that if he were to be elected, he would “stay far away from politics and politicians.Troy Slaten is an administrative law judge who used to be a child actor that now supports criminal justice reform and wants to be a superior court judge. DUI attorney Craig Sturm is also running, but he doesn't have any campaign material.           

Office No. 67

LA County Deputy District Attorney Fernanda Maria Barreto is running for this seat. SH was endorsed by the L.A. Times, but she only has a brief paragraph with not a lot of actual content. Ryan Dibble, another Deputy District Attorney, is endorsed by the San Pedro Democratic Club, the Torrance Democratic Club, the L.A. County Professional Peace Officers Association, the Long Beach Police Officers Association, the Los Angeles Police Protective League, and the Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs. Elizabeth Lashley-Haynes is a deputy public defender aligned with The Equal Justice Initiative who believes in ending mass incarceration and excessive punishment, ending racial and economic disparities in the formal justice system, and advocating for alternatives to incarceration. She’s recommended by Knock LA  and former L.A. Poet Laureate Luis Rodriguez.

Office No. 70

Renee Yolande Chang is a Deputy District Attorney running for this position. She’s endorsed by the L.A. Police Protective League and former D.A. Jackie Lacey. Randy Fudge is an assistant city prosecutor in Long Beach who is also running. Fudge is endorsed by the Long Beach Police Officer’s Association. Also, he has an amusing sounding web address for such a dull race, Holly Hancock is a deputy public defender who says she believes in an alternative to incarceration to “keep families together and ease the transition back into society which keeps our communities safe.” She’s recommended by both the L.A. Times and Knock L.A. Eric Alfonso Torices is an attorney and an adjunct immigration law professor in Cerritos College’s paralegal program who has a great gif on his website. Matthew Vodnoy is a criminal defense attorney who says on his website that “there was a moment I realized that making a difference is not achieved by simply putting people in prison,” he doesn’t elaborate on that.  

Office No. 90

Leslie Gutierrez is running for this seat on the bench, a deputy district attorney with multiple endorsements from a wide variety of police unions. Naser Nas Khoury is a criminal defense attorney endorsed by Antonio Villaraigosa. Melissa Lyons, a deputy district attorney in charge of juvenile prosecutions at the Superior Court’s Compton brand, is also running. She has been endorsed by the L.A. Times. Kevin McGurk is the only public defender running. McGurk says he believes in a “sensible alternative to incarceration within the confines of the law.” McGurk is recommended by Knock L.A. and the Los Angeles County Democratic Party. 

Office No. 116

Only two candidates are running for this seat on the bench, the Hon. David B. Gelfound, the current judge of the superior court for this seat, and Public Defender Lloyd E. Handler. Handler’s challenging Gelfound partially because Gelfound refused to discipline Judge Michael O’Gara, a judge under his supervisory position, for posting and participating in an anti-Gascon Facebook group. Gelfound is endorsed by the Los Angeles Police Protective League and the Association for Los Angeles County Deputy Sheriffs. Handler is endorsed by the Los Angeles County Democratic Party and Supervisor Holly Mitchell. On his website, Handler talks about the importance of having patient judges who wait for translators for people in their courts so they can fully articulate and communicate in court, the need for rehabilitation for some people instead of always incarcerating them, and the need for courts to have diverse jurors that more fully reflect a cross-section of communities. His website includes a picture of him standing on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, with a t-shirt on that says “public defenders for Black lives.” Gelfound was endorsed by the L.A. Times, while Knock L.A. recommended Handler. 

Office No. 118

Melissa Hammond is our first candidate for this seat. Hammond is a deputy district attorney who also, in the past, practiced civil law, criminal defense, and prosecution. She’s endorsed by the L.A. Police Protective League and the L.A. Times. Georgia Huerta is another deputy district attorney running. She said she would like to see more community education programs and self-help resources available for the public to learn about the law. Keith Koyano is, you guessed it, another deputy district attorney. Koyano is endorsed by a whole host of local police unions. Klint McKay is a supervising administrative law judge running for this seat. McKay notes that his top priorities include treating everyone in his courtroom with respect, including using their preferred pronouns and making sure people can fully present their case without regard to language barriers. Carolyn “Jiyoung” Park is an attorney and former Service Employees International Union staff attorney running for the seat. Park’s priorities include bringing increased diversity to the courtroom, like making sure judges and juries reflect the diversity of L.A., and getting a “people’s perspective to the bench” of an attorney, not a prosecutor, which many judges were before becoming judges. Park is recommended by Knock L.A. Lastly, Deputy County Counsel Shan Thever is also running. Thever doesn’t have much of any campaign ideas or endorsements, but he does a great picture of himself with former Governor Jerry Brown on his website.  

Office No. 151

First up, we got Thomas D. Allison, an attorney, and legal professor, running for this seat. Allison has run a series of free legal clinics and educational programs to teach the law to people. He’s recommended by Knock L.A. Karen A. Brako is a deputy district attorney in Long Beach and Catalina running for this seat as well. Brako says she wants to increase diversity in the superior court and ensure public safety “along with a common-sense approach to alternative sentencing.” Patrick Hare is a public defender who states on his website that “justice shouldn’t look different if you live in Brentwood or Boyle Heights, West LA or East LA, the South Bay of South Los Angeles” and that he’s interested in “the kind of justice that restores our community to wholeness, not only for those victimized by crime but for those accused of crimes as well” and how race, class, and gender impact the justice system. He’s endorsed by the L.A. Times. Lastly, Richard Quinones, a deputy district attorney, is running. He’s endorsed by L.A. City Councilmember Gil Cedillo.

Office No. 156

Lastly, just two candidates here, the Hon. Carol Elswick, the current superior court judge in this seat, and Albert Robles, an attorney and educator. In 2018 the state’s Commission on Judicial Performance found that Elswick “disregarded the fundamental rights of defendants, abused her authority, conveyed the appearance of bias and prejudgment, and violated the Code of Judicial Ethics” by being discourteous to criminal defendants in her courtroom and improperly referencing her personal life in the courtroom. On the other hand, Robles violated state law by being both the mayor of Carson and a member of the Water Replenishment District of Southern California board at the same time. Oy. Elswick is endorsed by the L.A. Times, the Los Angeles County Democratic Party, and the Pasadena Republican Club. Knock L.A. recommend Robles.

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