Politics

LA County supervisor seats and future of county in hands of voters

KPCC's Larry Mantle moderated a debate among candidates for the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors District 5 seat in May.
KPCC's Larry Mantle moderated a debate among candidates for the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors District 5 seat in May.
Quincy Surasmith/KPCC

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Among the major choices facing Los Angeles County voters in the Tuesday primary is the race for two contested seats on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.

The winners will help oversee an annual budget of roughly $3o billion covering such critical services as foster care, the sheriff's department, county jails and resources for the county's homeless.

Unlike the race for California's U.S. Senate seat and contests for the state Assembly and Senate, a candidate can win a supervisor's seat outright in the primary with 50 percent of the votes plus one. If that doesn't happen, the top two candidates advance to the general election in November. 

Results of the supervisors' race will shape the future direction of the county. Although officially nonpartisan, the board is now split 3-2, with Democrats in the majority. The election could add at least a fourth liberal to their ranks, creating what is called a "supermajority."

Critics contend with that amount of influence, the Democrats would have little check on any free-spending. But at least one former supervisor said even a liberal-leading board will be held accountable for the county's financial stability.

The board's openings come as two of the five supervisors are termed out. One seat is held by outgoing Republican Don Knabe and covers District 4, which takes in the South Bay and stretches east to Diamond Bar.

Contenders for Knabe’s seat include Republican Steve Napolitano and Democrat Ralph Pacheco. Also running is a Democrat whose name voters may recognize: Congresswoman Janice Hahn.

The other opening covers District 5 in North L.A. County, currently represented by Republican Michael Antonovich.

Eight candidates, most of them Republicans, are competing for Antonovich's seat. They include his chief of staff, Kathryn Barger, Los Angeles City Council member Mitch Englander, state Sen. Bob Huff, L.A. County prosecutor Elan Carr, Glendale Councilman Ara Najarian, former White House staffer Darrell Park, businessman Rajpal Kahlon and Altadena Council member Billy Malone.

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas' seat is also on the ballot, but he faces no opposition.