Sen. Holly Mitchell, D-Los Angeles, and Los Angeles City Councilman Herb Wesson are heading for a November runoff in their race to replace termed-out Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas in the county’s 2nd District, election results showed Wednesday.
Unofficial totals from Tuesday’s voting showed Wesson leading the field with roughly 32% of the vote to Mitchell’s 26%. Former City Councilwoman Jan Perry lagged far behind with about 12%.
“I feel good, I’m on the board,” Mitchell told the Los Angeles Times by phone after early results were posted. “I’m cautiously optimistic.”
Wesson issued a statement Wednesday calling his lead “commanding” and expressing pride in what he characterized as a “positive, grassroots” campaign.
“This election is not about who I am running against, it is who I am running for — our most vulnerable, our seniors, our children, our veterans and especially our homeless,” Wesson said. “They deserve our singular focus to put a roof over their heads and food on their table and to get them the treatment necessary for a chance to live with dignity again. This electoral victory represents the first step in my plan to end the homelessness and housing affordability crisis in Los Angeles County.”
In other county races, incumbent Supervisors Kathryn Barger and Janice Hahn retained their posts in the 5th and 4th Districts. Barger bested two opponents, while Hahn handily defeated one.
No incumbent county supervisor has been voted out of office since 1980.
Ridley-Thomas, who is vying to replace Wesson representing Los Angeles City Council District 10, has spent three terms representing the 2nd District, which covers an area ranging from downtown south through Inglewood and much of South Los Angeles to Carson, and as far west as Mar Vista.
Wesson, meanwhile, stepped down from his post as president of the City Council in December to focus on his bid to take over for Ridley-Thomas on the county board.
Wesson and Mitchell are vying to take Ridley-Thomas’ spot on the five-member board that controls a $36 billion budget and more than 113,000 county employees responsible for services to combat homelessness, manage the county jail and hospital systems, oversee child welfare and public safety and myriad other programs for more than 10 million county residents in 88 cities and unincorporated areas.
The race is nonpartisan and all of the front-runners were registered Democrats, but the contest was still contentious. Perry and Mitchell raised questions about the integrity of the voting process behind the Los Angeles County Democratic Party’s endorsement of Wesson. Perry, who battled with Wesson when the two served together on the Los Angeles City Council — including over redrawing the lines of her district — places the blame for increasing homelessness squarely on Wesson in her campaign mailers.
Much of the campaign focused on homelessness, given the pervasiveness and seeming intractability of the problem. While Mitchell took a less negative approach, laying out her “moral plan to take on homelessness,” rather than explicitly pointing fingers, her promise to do more than “just talk” also seemed to implicate the councilman.
For his part, Wesson said he is working urgently to get support and housing to those who need it and notes that the fight is personal for him. Wesson revealed that his eldest son is homeless and aired television ads showing the longtime councilman searching through homeless encampments.
Though Wesson and Mitchell are both progressives who tend to lean in the same direction on policy, they can differ significantly on issues of implementation. In a recent debate, for example, Wesson promoted the idea of 100% affordable units on publicly owned land, while Mitchell argued that such an approach would isolate poorer residents.
Wesson raised more than $1.5 million in contributions, far outpacing the other contenders, and has long been seen as the front-runner. The Democratic Party endorsed Wesson, and the councilman also has support from Mayor Eric Garcetti, Supervisor Janice Hahn and other well-respected politicians who might sway voters.
Mitchell has key endorsements of her own, including from Gov. Gavin Newsom, former Gov. Jerry Brown and leaders of the state Assembly and Senate. She also has support from labor, including from the United Farm Workers and its co-founder, Dolores Huerta.
However, Wesson is backed by the powerful unions that represent county firefighters and sheriff’s deputies, the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor and others.