Former Santa Monica Mayor Bobby Shriver, the nephew of the late President John F. Kennedy, faces former State Senator Sheila Kuehl Tuesday night in their first one-on-one debate since the June primary election. They are competing to replace Zev Yaroslavasky on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.
The powerful five-member board controls funding for everything from public health to the Sheriff's Department. Both candidates want to represent the sprawling Third Supervisorial District, which includes Santa Monica, Beverly Hills and most of the San Fernando Valley.
Shriver, 60, and Kuehl, 73, are both Democrats – the race is non-partisan. Kuehl edged Shriver in the primary, 36-29 percent, but the election is expected to be close. The focus of the debate is transportation and economic development issues.
Here are five things to watch for:
- Should there be an extension of the Measure R half-cent sales tax to fund transportation projects? Extending the tax would allow the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to borrow more money and speed projects. Whoever is elected will serve on the MTA board. A 2012 measure to extend the tax failed to garner the necessary two-thirds vote. Should the Board of Supervisors place another measure on the ballot?
- Where do Shriver and Kuehl stand on the Century City subway, or Purple Line? Shriver has said he supports the route that sends the subway under a corner of Beverly Hills High School. The city of Beverly Hills sued to stop the project. Kuehl has said she opposes that route, but added she would not do anything to delay the project.
- Businesses have expressed doubts about plans for a special property tax to fund a cleanup of storm water in the county. Some school districts and cities also oppose the idea, saying they don’t produce much pollution – so why should they pay? So where do Shriver and Kuehl stand on the idea of a property tax to clean polluted storm water? Do they have other ideas to fund a clean up?
- Shriver and Kuehl have very different styles. Shriver tends to be animated. Kuehl is more cerebral. That could affect their debate styles and might inform voters on how each would perform on the five-member Board of Supervisors.
- Where do Shriver and Kuehl stand on business regulations and public-private partnerships by the state’s largest county government? Most business groups have endorsed Shriver. Most labor unions have endorsed Kuehl. What will each candidate have to say about the interaction of the county with businesses, and the often- contentious issues of contracting out county services.
The two candidates present very different resumes. Shriver is a former Santa Monica mayor who has used his powerful political connections as a member of the Kennedy family to team with U2 rock star, Bono and raise money for worldwide causes including the fight against AIDS in Africa. Kuehl was a child actor who spent nearly two decades in the state legislature, championing healthcare and family leave legislation. She was the first openly gay member of the legislature and, if elected, would be the first openly gay member of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.