Nearly three weeks after the polls closed, incumbent Jim McDonnell conceded Monday night to challenger Alex Villanueva in the race to be Los Angeles County’s new sheriff.
McDonnell’s concession came in the wake of the latest update issued by the county registrar’s office, showing Villanueva leading by 120,000 votes with only 100,000 ballots left to be counted, according to officials.
The election to decide who would lead the second largest law enforcement agency in the United States had begun with McDonnell securing 58 percent of the vote by the end of election night. But as ballots continued to be counted over the following weeks, the total tally began to shift in Villanueva’s favor.
By Nov. 16, Villanueva had declared his victory when his lead had grown to 58,000 votes, but McDonnell waited until Monday night’s update to make it official.
“Today, I contacted Alex Villanueva to offer my best wishes for his administration as the 33rd elected sheriff of Los Angeles County,” McDonnell said in a statement released Monday. “We are in the process of arranging an orderly transition and a series of briefings to assist the new administration and it is my hope that the sheriff-elect will come to his new position with an open mind.”
Running on a promise to “clean house,” Villanueva, who served in the Sheriff’s Department for three decades, had been backed by both the Los Angeles Democratic Party and the Association of Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs (ALADS), the union representing county law enforcement personnel.
“For us, this means the ability to work better with the person in charge,” said ALADS President Ron Hernandez. “McDonnell’s regime wanted to impose rather than talk things out and we felt like it was time for a change.”
In addition to promising to reform the department and remove immigration agents from county jails, Villanueva said he plans to tackle issues affecting “thousands of county rank-and-file deputies on a daily basis,” such as staffing shortages, low morale and fostering a better relationship with the community.
In his concession, McDonnell, a former LAPD officer and Long Beach police chief, thanked the men and women of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, saying that the “honor of serving as the L.A. County sheriff is one like no other in law enforcement.”
The loss for McDonnell comes four years after he first became sheriff in 2014 and marks the first time in 100 years that the incumbent Los Angeles County sheriff has been unseated.
Villanueva is scheduled to be sworn in on Dec. 3 and will come into an office that oversees 153 unincorporated communities of Los Angeles County and 42 cities, a jurisdiction that includes Santa Clarita.