Kathryn Barger took a strong lead in the crowded race to replace Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael Antonovich Tuesday night, with 29.3 percent of early returns in her favor, but she is likely bound for a November runoff.
Sen. Bob Huff, R-San Dimas, and Glendale Mayor Ara Najarian were only decimal points apart, with 16 percent of votes, in a fight for second place, while entrepreneur Darrell Park was close behind them with 14.2 percent, according to early returns.
If no candidate earns more than 50 percent of the vote, the top two finishers will square off in a November runoff.
Los Angeles City Councilman Mitch Englander's narrow edge in campaign fundraising -- with $1.3 million to Barger's roughly $1.2 million -- did not seem to translate into significant support in today's election, as he picked up just 11.2 of early votes. Deputy District Attorney Elan Carr had 10.6 percent.
Altadena Town Council member Billy Malone and real estate investor Raj Pal Kahlon each garnered less than 2 percent of early votes.
Antonovich -- who will have served the 5th District for 36 years before being forced out by term limits at the end of this year -- had thrown his support behind Barger, his chief of staff. Supervisor Sheila Kuehl and former Supervisor Gloria Molina also endorsed Barger.
Barger had strong backing from unions representing sheriff's deputies and county firefighters, as well as the Service Employees International Union Local 721, which represents most county employees.
Carr and Huff were neck-and-neck in fundraising, with approximately $950,000 and $977,000 in their respective war chests. Najarian raised $505,000. Park's war chest held just $64,000, while the balance of the candidates have not submitted filings or have raised less than $10,000. But that doesn't necessarily mean they can be counted out in a race where no one candidate is likely to be able to garner a majority of votes in the primary election. The top two vote-getters will move on to the November ballot.
Kahlon challenged Antonovich in 2012 with little to no financial backing and picked up 20 percent of the vote as the only other candidate.
The 5th District includes the Antelope and Santa Clarita valleys, along with a portion of the San Gabriel and San Fernando valleys and foothills, an area widely viewed as more conservative than the balance of Los Angeles County.
But eligible voters will come from wide-ranging communities with diverse concerns, from Porter Ranch to Palmdale. Though it is a non-partisan seat, Antonovich may be the most conservative of the five supervisors and the race for his and Supervisor Don Knabe's 4th District seats could significantly reconfigure the board's politics. Of the board's three liberal members, Kuehl and Hilda Solis aren't up for re-election yet and Mark Ridley-Thomas is running unopposed.
Five of the eight candidates are registered Republicans, while Kahlon, Malone and Park -- who has the endorsement of the Los Angeles County Democratic Party -- are Democrats.
Englander touted his wide-ranging experience as an elected official and Huff highlighted his ability to work across party lines to solve problems. Carr ran on his crime-fighting background, but it is Barger, who hasnever held public office, who picked up endorsements from former District Attorneys Gil Garcetti, Steve Cooley and Robert Philibosian.
Barger cited her deep knowledge of county matters and highlighted the fact that she's not a career politician, while Najarian reminded voters of his work as board chair of the Metropolitan Transportation Association and record of creating jobs as mayor.
Politician or not, Barger garnered the backing of dozens of mayors, former mayors, council members and school district board members in the 5th District as well as from former Govs. George Deukmejian and Pete Wilson and former Reps. David Dreier and Gary Miller.
Englander has a long list of high-profile supporters, including all but two of his fellow council members -- the holdouts are David Ryu and Paul Koretz. He also has the backing of City Attorney Mike Feuer, seven current or former Assembly members, including Mike Gatto, and former Rep. Buck McKeon, Rep. Brad Sherman and Secretary of State Alex Padilla. The Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce also backed him. U.S. Sen. John McCain is among Carr's supporters, who also include syndicated conservative radio show host Dennis Prager and a state police union.
As for Najarian, he was the choice of the Los Angeles Times editorial board, former longtime Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky and more than a dozen mayors, former mayors and council members in the district.
The unpredictable race could also upend the board in other ways. If front-runner Janice Hahn takes Knabe's seat and Barger wins the hotly contested 5th District post, the next board could be four-fifths women. The Board of Supervisors controls a $28.5 billion budget -- larger than that of most states -- and provides services to more than 10 million residents in 88 cities and unincorporated areas.