Long Beach police Chief Jim McDonnell was preparing today to take over as Los Angeles County sheriff, having easily defeated retired Undersheriff and Gardena Mayor Paul Tanaka.
With 100 percent of precincts reporting, McDonnell won by a landslide with 74.83 percent of the vote (703,662 votes) to Tanaka’s 25.17 percent (236,665 votes).
Last night, McDonnell, flanked by his family and District Attorney Jackie Lacey, thanked his supporters Tuesday night and said he looked forward to boosting public confidence in the department.
“A long campaign journey is now finally and thankfully over,” McDonnell said.
“There were nights when I thought I was the guest of honor at a eulogy,” McDonnell quipped, reminiscing about the many campaign events he attended. He added that while on the campaign trail, he met many residents who he believed would “help move the LASD beyond the past challenges.”
McDonnell will take over the post vacated by four-term Sheriff Lee Baca, who retired in January amid federal investigations into deputy-on-inmate violence and corruption. McDonnell was the only outsider who sought the job.
A 29-year Los Angeles Police Department veteran who served as second-in-command to then-Chief Bill Bratton, McDonnell seeks big changes for the embattled department.
“I look forward to ushering in a new era at LASD, continuing to move the department beyond past problems and restoring the trust of the community,” McDonnell said during the race.
Tanaka’s campaign was largely inactive following a June primary in which McDonnell garnered 49 percent of the vote, nearly winning the majority needed to avoid the runoff.
Tanaka had picked up 15 percent in the seven-way primary, but his campaign’s subsequent low profile led some to assume he was dropping out Tanaka declined requests for debates and campaigned primarily online, via Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.
McDonnell raised $620,000 in campaign donations from July 1 to Oct. 18, as compared with just $27,000 in donations to Tanaka’s campaign during the same time period.
McDonnell was endorsed by all five members of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, District Attorney Jackie Lacey, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, Los Angeles police Chief Charlie Beck and Interim Sheriff John Scott.
Scott said last night that the department would be in good hands.
“I have great confidence in Jim McDonnell as the next sheriff, not only as a leader with an extensive background in law enforcement, but as a man with unquestionable integrity,” Scott said.
Beck also offered praise for McDonnell, who he said was a good friend.
“He is a dedicated leader, he understands the profession very, very well,” Beck told ABC7.
McDonnell is scheduled to take the reins from Scott on Dec. 1.
McDonnell told civil rights advocates he would support a citizens’ commission to oversee the department, but has not yet decided whether he would back subpoena power for such a group.
Tanaka retired from the Sheriff’s Department in 2013 after serving more than 30 years. He had been accused by a civilian review commission of promoting a culture in which sheriff’s deputies went undisciplined for violence against jail inmates.
Tanaka said he had never condoned excessive force and maintained that he was scapegoated by those who did not want to see him succeed Baca as sheriff.
While testifying in the federal trial of another deputy, however, Tanaka acknowledged that he was under investigation as part of a continuing federal probe into the county jails.
The election may have been the easiest hurdle for McDonnell to clear.
The Department of Justice has said it will seek federal court oversight of the jails based on the treatment of mentally ill inmates. A half-dozen deputies have already been convicted of obstruction of justice for hiding an inmate witness from the FBI, and other indictments are pending for corruption and civil rights abuses.
Scott said he has implemented dozens of reforms and would work to ensure a smooth transition to McDonnell’s leadership.