Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva appeared to be headed to a November runoff election in his bid for a second term, likely with former Long Beach police Chief Robert Luna, according to early ballot returns.
The two are far ahead in the nine-candidate field.
In the California primary, the top two candidates in each race will continue to a runoff in November, unless one candidate receives more than 50% of the vote Tuesday.
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Incumbent Sheriff Alex Villanueva faces eight candidates vying to unseat him.
Villanueva, the 33rd Sheriff of LA County, was the first person in 100 years to defeat an incumbent, Sheriff Jim McDonnell, in 2018.
During his tenure, Villanueva has declared war on the County Board of Supervisors and the Civilian Oversight Commission, which has challenged the sheriff over several issues including deputy shootings, the arrest of a local reporter covering a protest and an alleged gang within the department.
Challengers to his position included six current or former veterans of the Sheriff's Department, one retired Long Beach police chief, and a state parole agent.
Speaking to his supporters Tuesday night, Villanueva said he is "focusing on what matters to people -- homelessness and violent crime."
He said he has been "playing eight-on-one basketball" during the campaign, noting that his candidates were all running on anybody-but-him platforms.
"We're going to keep doing what we're doing, because it's the right thing to do,'' Villanueva said. "… My job is to keep the community safe. If that means I have to battle the Board of Supervisors, so be it."
Luna argued during the campaign that the sheriff's department is being "mismanaged" by Villanueva and said he will work to restore trust in the agency. He also touted his position as an outsider with no connections to the sheriff's department.
"Growing up in East Los Angeles, patrolled by the sheriff's
department, opened my eyes to examples of both good and bad policing, and inspired my 36-year career in law enforcement," Luna said in a candidate statement.
He said he will work to "modernize" the sheriff's department and its jail system and improve the mental well-being of deputies and employees.
Get the latest updates on the California primary here.