Politics, government and public life for Southern California

LA Supervisors race: Duran, Kuehl, Shriver argue experience makes them the best candidate

Candidates for 3rd district supervisor in LA County, from left, Bobby Shriver, Sheila Kuehl and John Duran. Raphe Sonenshein, director of the Pat Brown Institute at Cal State LA moderated.
Candidates for 3rd district supervisor in LA County, from left, Bobby Shriver, Sheila Kuehl and John Duran. Raphe Sonenshein, director of the Pat Brown Institute at Cal State LA moderated. Frank Stoltze

The three leading candidates to replace Zev Yaroslavsky on the powerful Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors agreed on most of the issues during their final debate Wednesday. All want to provide more affordable housing, all promise to seek more money for homeless veterans and all said people getting out of jail should receive more help.

But Bobby Shriver, Sheila Kuehl and John Duran – all Democrats – argued their resume makes them best qualified to sit on the five-member board during a debate at the Stephen S. Weiss Temple in the Sepulveda Pass sponsored by LA Voice, an interfaith group devoted to social justice issues.

“Being a city official is good preparation for this job,” said Shriver, a former Santa Monica mayor. He said county supervisors must work closely with city officials on various issues, from affordable housing to mass transit.

Shriver also pointed to his pedigree as the son of Sargent Shriver, who started the Peace Corps under President Kennedy and led the War on Poverty under President Johnson.

“Even though I would never compare myself to my dad, I hope that I am a tenth as smart as he is,” said Shriver, who added that his work raising millions of dollars to provide HIV medications in Africa is an example of how he is a “change agent.” Shriver’s father was married to President Kennedy’s sister, making him a nephew of the popular Democratic president.

Kuehl, a former state senator, said her work on statewide issues in the California legislature provide better experience than Shriver’s.

“The county does things that cities don’t do,” Kuehl argued. She pointed to providing health care and running a jail system – issues she dealt with as a state legislator for more than a decade. Kuehl was the author of two single payer healthcare measures approved by the legislature but vetoed by then-Governor Schwarzenegger.

“As a supervisor, I want to use what I learned in 14 years – I want to hit the ground running,” she said. Kuehl also said she’d been a social activist for many years before serving in elected office, serving on the board of the Liberty Hill Foundation.

“My whole life has been devoted to social justice,” said Kuehl, who was the first openly gay member of the state legislature.

Duran, who is also gay, sided with Shriver when it came to arguing elected city officials make good supervisors. He’s been a West Hollywood city councilman for 13 years.

“We have a AAA bond rating, $100 million in reserves and the lifespan of a pothole is six hours in my city,” said Duran. He pointed out that Yaroslavsky and his predecessor on the board previously served on city councils.

Duran said he’s been a social activist all his life. As an attorney, he worked to protect the rights of people with HIV. He’s also sat on the boards of the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California and the gay rights group Equality California.

At one point during the debate, Duran said his experience as a one-time drug addict himself would help him better understand how to help inmates caught up in the criminal justice system because of their addiction.

“There but for the grace of god go I,” Duran said.

The election is next Tuesday, June 3. If no candidate receives more than 50 percent of the vote, the top two finishers face off in a November runoff.

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