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Villanueva Extends His Lead by 58,000 For L.A. Sheriff, and Huge Latino Voter Turnout Put Him There

2:04 PM PST on November 16, 2018

Courtesy of Alex Villanueva for Sheriff.

[dropcap size=big]W[/dropcap]hat a crazy election for Los Angeles County Sheriff. The race whipsawed from incumbent Sheriff Jim McDonnell with a dominant 58 percent of the vote on election night to challenger Alex Villanueva with a slim 4,927 vote margin of victory the following day. Villanueva’s lead then withered down to just 335 votes.

Now, as of Friday afternoon, Villanueva’s lead shot back up to nearly 58,000 votes over McDonnell in this close election. The tally at 5 pm, Nov. 16, was Villanueva with 1,112,673 votes to McDonnell's 1,054,863.

If he ultimately prevails — it’s still 'if,' as there remains thousands of votes to be counted with a new ballots from the L.A. County registrar expected today — the former deputy Villanueva has a historically robust Latino voter turnout in this year’s election to thank for it. The county has until Nov. 30 to certify the results.

RELATED: Sheriff’s Deputies Profiled Thousands of Drivers on the 5 Freeway Through the Grapevine: Our Analysis

By the Numbers

[dropcap size=big]A[/dropcap] new UCLA study examining Latino turnout in the June primary suggests voters from majority Latino precincts in L.A County came out big in 2018, and they leaned hard in favor of Villanueva.

“Our center at LPPI put out this chart documenting very high vote for Villanueva among Latinos,” Matt Barreto, professor of political science and Chicana/o studies and co-author of the study, told L.A. Taco. “There is no question that the Latino vote for Villanueva was the difference in this election.”

The UCLA study, “Latino Vote 2018,” released by UCLA’s Latino Policy & Politics Initiative (LPPI), also shows the more Latino the precinct, the bigger the increase of turnout.

Villanueva went after L.A. County’s 1.7 million registered Latino voters and it appears to have paid off. They delivered. The number of ballots cast by Latinos jumped 66.5 percent in the June primary over 2014 in L.A. County precincts where 75 percent of registered voters are Latino. Out of the 3612 precincts in L.A. County, the UCLA study shows 325 of those mostly Latino precincts.

Latino voter turnout in Southeast L.A. doubled.

Villanueva got 70 percent of the Latino vote and McDonnell got just got 29 percent in L.A. County, according to exit polling from Loyola Marymount University’s Center for the Study of Los Angeles, which surveyed about 1,500 voters at 25 polling places around the county on Nov. 6. Villanueva also beat McDonnell among Democrats 66-33.

Over 64.2 percent of voters with both parents born outside the U.S. said they cast their ballot for Villanueva versus 35.8 for McDonnell. 

Professor Fernando Guerra, who conducted the poll, said vote-by-mail ballots returned early are the reason why the vote looked to go to McDonnell on election night while provisional and vote-by-mail ballots submitted on Election Day leaned toward Villanueva.

Incumbent Sheriff Jim McDonnell. Photo courtesy of LASD.
McDonnell, courtesy of LASD.

The Candidates

[dropcap size=big]M[/dropcap]cDonnell, a law enforcement veteran with LAPD who chaired a Sheriff Civilian Oversight Commission on abuses in the county’s prisons, campaigned on continuing the reforms he started after taking over in 2014. He pointed to a drop in serious jail violence as evidence of success. He also touted other improvements, such as boosting mental health care for those in custody and creating a human trafficking bureau.

But his tenure was marred by major incidents of impropriety, like the most recent case of racial profiling of Latino drivers on the Grapevine, which a judge this week ruled unconstitutional

Villanueva, U.S. Air Force veteran who served three decades in the Sheriff's Department, positioned himself as the “progressive candidate,” a Democrat who would kick U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents out of the county jails. The drew an unlikely coalition of liberal activists, labor groups and the union representing rank-and-file deputies, with most of the money supporting him coming through well-funded outside groups.

Some of his positions deviated from a typical progressive platform, such as his statements on station tattoos and cliques in the department, and saying he would consider giving deputies metal flashlights to defend themselves against inmates in jails.

Hilda Marella Delgado, a spokeswoman for Villanueva, told media outlets that support from the Democratic Party groups and other groups was vital. The goal was to paint McDonnell as a conservative and equate the Sheriff’s policy of allowing Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers into L.A. County jails as a testing ground for the Trump administration.

“With the recent counts showing our lead continuing to grow, it’s clear that Los Angeles County voters are ready to reform, rebuild, and restore the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department,” Villanueva said in a statement.

RELATED: Sheriff's Deputies Shoot and Kill Teen in South L.A., Leave Body Lying for Hours

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