After a series of scandals at the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, an outside candidate promising to reform the beleaguered agency was leading in the race for sheriff, according to early returns reported by the Los Angeles Times. Jim McDonnell, the Long Beach police chief and the only major candidate without deep ties to the department, jumped out to a 3-to-1 lead over his nearest rival, former Undersheriff Paul Tanaka. “The results show that the voters, the public, looked at this situation and thought a fresh outside perspective would be beneficial in moving the organization forward,” McDonnell said.
If McDonnell does not win more than 50 percent of the vote, he probably will face Tanaka in a Nov. 4 runoff. Tanaka’s showing would come despite disclosures that he is a subject of a federal investigation in connection with an ongoing jails probe. He also faced intense criticism from other candidates, who said he was partly responsible for problems plaguing the Sheriff’s Department in recent years. The race is considered one of the most important in the history of the Sheriff’s Department. Longtime Sheriff Lee Baca abruptly retired in January, a month after federal criminal charges were filed against 18 current and former sheriff’s deputies accused of beating jail inmates or trying to obstruct the FBI in an investigation into the jail system. For the last century, voters have elected a sheriff from inside the department.