This year’s primary elections were marked by low-voter turnout (around 15 percent of registered LA County voters), shoo-in races and several nail-biters. The tightest races of local relevance were those for County 3rd District Supervisor, County Sheriff and LA City Council District 11. 

Preliminary vote counts for the Supervisor race show 18th District State Senator Bob Hertzberg as the front runner with 35.06 percent of the vote, followed by West Hollywood Mayor Lindsey Horvath in second place with 24.71 percent, who in turn is closely trailed by 27th District State Senator Henry Stern with 21.99 percent. 

While it is highly likely that Horvath will join Hertzberg in a November run off election, the vote margin between Horvath is slim enough that Stern could theoretically take second place as the last straggling votes are counted.

“I am incredibly honored that the residents of the 3rd District trusted me with their vote,” said Horvath in a statement on the initial results. “As long as these results hold true, we will advance to the November general election with Senator Bob Hertzberg. Despite the hundreds of thousands of dollars spent by special interests to elect my opponent, the voters of District 3 know they can’t be bought.”

The rest of the races have clear candidates who will proceed to the November runoffs, but several remain tight enough that the general election is still anyone’s game.

For the County Sheriff’s race, incumbent Alex Villanueva failed to establish a majority of the vote and clinch the position in the primary, despite the fact that he was facing a dispersed field of little known challengers. He is now set to face off against Long Beach Police Chief Robert Luna, who managed to gain 24.53 percent of the vote compared to Villanueva’s 34.38 percent. LASD Lieutenant Eric Strong received 12.55 percent of the votes, followed in fourth place by LAX Police Chief Cecil Rhambo with 7.57 percent. 

Villanueva swept to victory in 2020 by ousting the incumbent Sheriff with the backing of the LA County Democrats. He has since drawn controversy for his handling of deputy gangs, use of force, and resistance to civilian oversight. However, he maintains a base of supporters who approve of his stance on addressing homelessness and aggressive attitude against what he labels the “woke extremism” of many liberal electeds.

Luna is a longtime law enforcement official who, according to his campaign website, has campaign goals to “restore public trust and accountability in the Sheriff’s Office” and “reform and modernize the Sheriff’s Department and jails.” He received the LA Times’ endorsement and is now positioned to be the challenger candidate that anti-Villanueva organizations and officials coalesce around.

The first and second place positions for the LA City Council District 11 race are separated by less than 100 votes at press time, meaning that current front-runner Erin Darling with 31.39 percent of the vote will face a November run-off against Traci Park, who received 31.1 percent of the vote. 

While Santa Monica residents are not able to vote for LA City Council, this elected official is of local relevance as, save for the ocean, the city is surrounded by CD-11 on all sides. How this City Council representative tackles crime and homelessness on Santa Monica’s borders will have a measurable impact on those problems within city limits.

Darling and Park are both attorneys, but are very different candidates with staunchly different positions on these two key issue areas. 

Darling is a progressive candidate with the endorsement of current CD-11 Councilman Mike Bonin. Darling supports addressing public safety through more investment in communities as opposed to direct law enforcement dollars. He does not support enforcing anti-camping laws and instead believes in addressing homelessness by tackling the affordable housing crisis and focusing on building permanent supportive housing.

“Despite being outspent ten-to-one I earned the most votes in the primary so far. I’m so excited and thankful to go on to the general election in November,” said Darling. “The primary candidates were courteous and professional with each other. For the general election I’m sure the mudslinging against me will get ugly. But I’m focused on the issues and working hard so that the Westside can be a safe place where we can all thrive.”

Park is running on a law and order focused platform and has endorsements from the Santa Monica Police Officers Association and the Los Angeles Police Protective League. Park supports increasing police funding; has a campaign goal to end encampments; and supports enforcing anti-camping laws alongside rapidly scaling up long and short-term shelter capacity and services. 

“What I’m seeing in these results is widespread dissatisfaction with the status quo,” said Park. “Even in a crowded race with several good candidates, a majority of voters on the Westside are looking for change. I see these results as an opportunity for the Westside to come together and rally behind a new leader who will bring the changes so many of us want to see.”

In the LA City Mayor Race, which has a similar local relevance to crime and homelessness despite not being elected by Santa Monica voters, businessman Rick Caruso received 42.14 percent of the vote, followed by US Representative Karen Bass with 36.95 percent of the vote.

In the 51st Assembly District race, Rick Chavez Zbur received 61.96 percent of the vote followed by Louis Abramson with 38.04 percent of the vote. In the 24th District State Senator race, Santa Monica resident and incumbent Senator Ben Allen ran unopposed and received 100 percent of the vote. 

“Three themes from yesterday’s election would be that voters who paid attention voted with intention; voters care about making our neighborhoods feel cleaner and safer but have differing opinions about how to accomplish that; and in the L.A Mayor and Sheriff races, the top vote-getter yesterday may not win in November when votes from all the challengers line up behind the top two,” said Co-Director of the Public Policy Institute Shari Davis.

Davis also said that while she wasn’t shocked by the primary results, she was somewhat surprised by the very low voter turnout.

“The General Election on November 8 will be a whole different ball game,” said Davis.

Full primary election results can be viewed at https://results.lavote.gov/

Clara@smdp.com