Former Sen. Sheila Kuehl will join the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors thanks to a hard-fought victory over ex-Santa Monica Mayor Bobby Shriver.
As of 2:50 am Wednesday, with 91.55 percent of precincts reporting, Kuehl had 52.92 percent of the vote (107,412 votes) ahead of Shriver’s 47.08 percent of the vote (95,556 votes).
Kuehl will replace termed-out Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky in the Third District.
Shriver had pulled ahead in fundraising since the June primary, with roughly $904,000 in contributions collected between July 1 and Sept. 30, compared to Kuehl’s approximately $656,000.
But Kuehl’s list of endorsements seemed 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 had 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 had 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, drew fire from critics who said she is too closely tied to labor interests.
Kuehl, 73, noted that smaller unions endorsed Shriver and promised 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 argued that her 14 years of experience in the state Legislature as both a senator and assemblywoman were 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 claimed that Shriver lacks the experience to be effective in the demanding role.
Shriver, 60, a member of the Kennedy family, pointed to his hands-on role in city government, working to balance a budget for Santa Monica. He cited 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 came 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 also sparred on the effectiveness of tax incentives for business, with Shriver taking a more pro-business stance.
Yaroslavsky, who has represented the Third District since 1994 and will term out at year’s end, 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 on Dec. 1 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.