LA County District 4 candidates try to make their case to voters

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Among the most important local contests in this year's election are two that will determine who fills the open seats on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.

The supervisors wield tremendous power: they oversee about a $30 billion yearly budget and determine if problems like homelessness get attention and whether services from jails to foster care get funded. 

Three candidates are in the running in the race to succeed Supervisor Don Knabe in District 4. The sprawling, U-shaped district stretches from the South Bay down to Long Beach then up to Cerritos and Diamond Bar. The district is home to 27 cities and 2.2 million residents. 

Two of the District 4 candidates running are Democrats — Congresswoman Janice Hahn and Ralph Pacheco, a community organizer. Steve Napolitano, Knabe’s senior deputy and a Republican, is also in the running.

Hahn currently serves in the U.S. House. Her political career extends back decades. In 2001, she won a seat on the L.A. City Council. Ten years later, she ran for Congress, where she worked with other lawmakers to improve the country's ports and veterans services.

Napolitano is a resident of Manhattan Beach and served on its City Council. He received a law degree from Loyola Law School and points to his 25 years of government experience, particularly emphasizing his work as Knabe's aide.  

Pacheco served on the Rio Hondo Community College Board of Trustees and Whittier Union High School District board and was the longtime president of the Whittier County Community Coordinating Council.

Here are their stands on some of the major issues of the campaign that matter to Californians:

Minimum wage

Officially, the supervisors' races are non-partisan. But party divisions emerged during a May 2 candidate forum in Torrance when candidates were asked about their views on the $15 minimum wage increase, a level that the county will reach in 2020.

Pacheco supports the increase. "I tell my small business friends … think of the alternative — $15 an hour or they’re on the welfare rolls. Which would you prefer?"

Hahn backs the increase as well, focusing in part on the impact of the wage increase on women.

"Part of why I have supported raising it was because I know that two-thirds of all those who are on the minimum wage are women. And so I think this was a decent minimum wage," she said.

Napolitano did not oppose the minimum wage increase, but said he wishes there were more offsets for businesses. And he went further, saying that he’s reserving judgment on whether he'll support minimum paid sick leaves for workers. 

Hahn and Pacheco both support paid sick leave.

Spending priorities

During the recent candidate forum, Napolitano warned that a future board that isn’t fiscally conservative would risk throwing essential county needs into jeopardy.

The current board is split a 3-2, liberals to conservatives. A win by a Democrat could tip the board into a super majority. 

“That’s what we don’t need to change going forward, because we’ve had great relationships with our unions but we’ve done it in a fiscally responsible sustainable way where we’re not giving away the farm," Napolitano said. 

He also said he'd support additional Los Angeles County Sheriff hires and investing in probation resources.

Hahn said connecting the Green line into LAX would be a major priority, and that she might be willing to dip into the rainy day fund to help the county's homeless population.

Pacheco wants to provide re-training programs and new educational opportunities for people living in poverty. 

Environment

This week, Napolitano attacked Hahn's environmental record in a press release. He was particularly critical of her actions 10 years ago when, as a City Council member representing the area, she supported oil drilling in Wilmington next to homes and a baseball park.

"After 10 years, residents still complain about foul odors, gas flaring, oily dust, round-the-clock noise, diesel truck traffic and foundation-damaging vibrations," Napolitano said.

In an email to KPCC, Hahn's campaign spokesperson Dave Jacobson called the attack "last-minute mudslinging."

"The fact is that every major environmental organization and leader, from the Sierra Club and League of Conservation Voters, to Supervisor Sheila Kuehl and Wilmington-based Coalition for a Safe Environment Executive Director Jesse Marquez, are united behind Janice Hahn's campaign for county supervisor because of her strong and proven environmental protection record," Jacobson said.

Endorsements and financing

Napolitano has been endorsed by the Republicans on the board, Knabe and Mike Antonovich, and business organizations like the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce Jobs PAC. 

Hahn has the support of the three Democratic supervisors on the board and labor groups that include L.A. County Firefighters Local 1014 and the Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs.

Pacheco is backed by Kevin Gordon,  president of Capitol Advisors Group, and Kent Bechler, a one-time California Superintendent of the Year.

Unlike the U.S. Senate competition, the county supervisors race could be decided in the primary. If any of the candidates get 50 percent plus one vote, he or she can win the seat outright. In that context, fundraising becomes a critical component in a win.

Currently, Hahn has about $580,000 on hand and has spent about $240,000, as of the latest campaign disclosure statement from April. Napolitano ended that same filing period with about $9,000 in the bank, having spent about $420,000. Pacheco did not report raising any money. 

Hahn's family legacy in politics and civic life gives her wide name recognition. Her father, Kenneth Hahn, served on the Board of Supervisors for 40 years. Given her fundraising and name advantage, it can be argued that it is her contest to lose.

On Thursday, KPCC’s AirTalk holds a debate among the District 5 candidates — those seeking to succeed Supervisor Mike Antonovich. You can be there or view a live stream. RSVP or see more details online. 

An AirTalk debate for District 4 is scheduled for June 2. 

For more information on the upcoming election, visit our Voter Guide. If you have a question about the elections, visit our Human Voter Guide page to submit a question and we'll try to get you an answer.

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