Robert Luna

Incumbent Alex Villanueva Concedes Defeat to Robert Luna in LA County Sheriff Race

The race to become Los Angeles County sheriff has finally been decided.

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Former Long Beach Police Chief Robert Luna will be the next sheriff in Los Angeles County.

During a Tuesday afternoon news conference, incumbent Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva wished former Long Beach Police Chief Robert Luna well, bringing closure to a the fiercely contested Nov. 7 General Election. Luna's victory marks the second time in four years that an incumbent sheriff in LA County has lost re-election.

During the news conference, Villanueva presented a slideshow outlining several grievances with the news media, the county board of supervisors and his opponent, and some of his department's accomplishments and challenges during the past four years.

"Unless God intervenes and does a miracle with the remaining ballots, we don't see it's going to change," Villanueva said. "We'll leave the keys in the ignition with the engine running. What he does with it, that's entirely up to him."

Villanueva's victory four years ago came at the expense of then-Sheriff Jim McDonnell. He had strong support from reform-minded community groups and Democrats that time around, but that backing deteriorated during his tenure. He often clashed with the Democrat-dominated Board of Supervisors over funding and policy matters.

Villanueva also repeatedly defied subpoenas to appear before the Civilian Oversight Commission and refused to enforce the county's COVID-19 vaccination mandate among his deputies and department employees. Villanueva's campaign insists he has worked to restore public trust in the sheriff's department, pointing to the rollout of body-worn cameras and boosting minimum requirements for new deputies.

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Villanueva blamed defeat on what he claimed was a sweeping misinformation campaign and the use of "false narratives" focused on issues including alleged deputy gangs, his alleged resistance of oversight by the county and Civilian Oversight Commission and other allegations of internal harassment and retaliation against purported whistleblowers.

He also said he was victimized by a "weaponized political machine" operated by the county.

"One thing I've learned also is that speaking truth to power is not without risks," he said. "I remember a politician that I met early on, they told me you can be a reformer or you can be reelected. You've got to pick one. I'm proud to say I'm a reformer. I have no desire to abandon who I am, my principles, just to get elected.

"I've faced adversity throughout my career in law enforcement because I've always spoke truth to power, never batted an eye. And in our meetings, our executive meetings, every meeting that we had when we had to make a decision the very first thing was, 'What's the right thing to do.' And the second thing was, 'OK, make it happen.'

"Every adversity I've faced throughout my years in law enforcement has always propelled me to a bigger stage, a bigger audience and a bigger voice."

Among the department's accomplishments he listed addressing homelessness, revising the body-worn camera program, reinstating the issuance of concealed weapon permits and managing the jail system during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Luna argued that the department was being mismanaged and vowed to work to restore trust. He also touted his position as an outsider with no connections to the sheriff's department.

Luna said he will work to modernize the sheriff's department and its jail system and improve the mental well-being of deputies and employees.

"I'm deeply honored and humbled that you have elected me as your next Sheriff," Luna said in a statement after Villanueva's news conference. "With your vote, you have entrusted me with a clear mandate to bring new leadership and accountability to the Sheriff’s Department. And that’s exactly what I will do.

"I want to offer my best wishes to Sheriff Villanueva and his family.

"And I look forward to working with the talented and courageous sworn and professional staff of the Sheriff’s Department who are dedicated to keeping our communities safe."

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