Former Sen. Sheila Kuehl defeated former Santa Monica Mayor Bobby Shriver in a tight race for a seat on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.
Kuehl was victorious after winning 53 percent of the vote with 100 percent of precincts reporting, with a total of 114,348 votes. Kuehl and Shriver were vying to replace Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky in the Third District.
Kuehl was confident of victory early on Wednesday morning, telling NBC4 there was no way she could be caught by her rival when just 31 percent of votes being counted. She added she could "can not wait to get to work" as Supervisor as she headed home to get some sleep as the ballots continued to be tallied.
Shriver called his opponent early Wednesday to congratulate her on the victory, he said in a statement.
"Sheila was gracious in victory," Shriver said in a statement. "We had a good conversation about our challenging and spirited campaign. After 25 debates, I know Sheila will bring strength and conviction to her service on the Board of Supervisors.
"This campaign has been a great experience for my family and me. I particularly value our new friendships and the diverse communities I have come to know. Los Angeles County has amazing people, resources, and challenges."
In June's primary, Kuehl drew 36 percent of the vote and Shriver took 29 percent. But Shriver, a member of the Kennedy family, has pulled ahead in fundraising since the June primary with roughly $904,000 in contributions collected between July 1 and Sept. 30. Kuehl has raised approximately $656,000 during that time.
Kuehl's list of endorsements still seems to outweigh Shriver's. In addition to the backing of several dozen current and retired elected officials, including Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Beverly Hills, she has the endorsements of the Los Angeles County Democratic Party, the National Women's Political Caucus of California and Emily's List.
"I trust Sheila Kuehl to be a powerful and effective voice for sound fiscal and budgetary practices," county Chief Executive Officer William Fujioka said in his endorsement. Fujioka is set to retire at the end of the year.
Shriver has the endorsement of two of his opponents in the primary race, West Hollywood Councilman John Duran and former Malibu Mayor Pamela Ulrich, as well as Supervisor Don Knabe, former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan and dozens of other elected officials and business and community leaders.
"I believe that Shriver expresses the impatience that leads many of us in local office to ask the hard questions," Duran said. "We have learned to be innovative and creative without the constraints of too much official pomp or party-line voting."
Kuehl's support from major unions, including the Service Employees International Union Local 721 and the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, both of which represent county employees, has drawn fire from critics that she is too closely tied to labor interests.
Kuehl, 73, notes that smaller unions have endorsed Shriver and promises she is not beholden to unions based on their backing.
"I have never personally made any policy decisions based on either labor or business attempting to exert their influence," Kuehl said.
Kuehl argues that her 14 years of experience in the state Legislature as both a senator and assemblywoman are the best credentials for the county job, which includes overseeing a $27 billion budget and several departments managing issues as disparate as public health, child welfare and the county jail system.
Her proponents claim that Shriver lacks the experience to be effective in the demanding role.
Shriver, 60, points to his hands-on role in city government, working to balance a budget for Santa Monica. He cites his efforts on developing-world debt relief and nonprofit business ventures as evidence of his ability to craft creative solutions to big problems.
"Government needs innovation," Shriver said in a campaign statement. "We need smart solutions and the drive to make them actually happen."
Though the county race is non-partisan, both candidates are Democrats with a strong commitment to protecting the environment and affordable housing. They share a progressive tilt on most issues and support a plan to increase the minimum wage. In debates, disagreements between the two have come up over the route of the planned "Subway to the Sea," with Kuehl telling Westsiders that it might be possible to reroute a tunnel designed to run beneath Beverly Hills High School. Shriver accused Kuehl of pandering to voters at the risk of losing federal funding.
They have also sparred on the effectiveness of tax incentives for business, with Shriver taking a more pro-business stance.
Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, who has represented the Third District since 1994 and will term out at year's end, has declined to endorse either of the candidates. A recent ad placed in the Los Angeles Times by Shriver's campaign used published quotes from Yaroslavsky to link the two men's policy views, prompting Yaroslavsky to reiterate that he was taking a neutral stance in the campaign. He asked Shriver to drop the ad.
Supervisor Gloria Molina will also cede her seat at the end of the year due to term limits. Former Labor Secretary Hilda Solis has already won the right to replace Molina in representing the First District, with a decisive 70 percent of the vote in June's primary.