Long beach Police Chief Jim McDonnell announced Monday afternoon that he has jumped into the race for the office Los Angeles County Sheriff.
Although entering late, with Sheriff Baca out of the running he is expected to be a formidable candidate.
(Although nobody and nothing is a sure thing in this fluid race.)
For those unfamiliar with him, McDonnell has served as the head of the Long Beach PD since 2010. Prior to coming to LB, he served on the Los Angeles Police Department for 29 years, eventually holding the rank of Assistant Chief under Chief Bill Bratton. McDonnell was short-listed for the position of LAPD chief twice, once during the process that ultimately led to the selection of Bratton.
(It was McDonnell’s 100-page plan for reorganizing the department that was one of the main roadmaps that Bratton used when he took the reins of the LAPD in 2002)
The second time McDonnell was a runner up was in 2009 when Charlie Beck was the ultimate selection.
[Here's a link to WLA's coverage of that selection process.]
McDonnell was one of seven commissioners who served on the Citizens Commission on Jail Violence.
After an exploratory period in the spring of 2013, Chief McDonnell announced in June of last year that that he would not be running for the office of sheriff after all.
“I was torn for a long time,” he told me back then. “I’d find myself thinking about it in the middle of the night.” But although he was really tempted, he said, he took a hard look at what this kind of campaign and fundraising necessities would do to his ability to do the job he already has, namely heading the Long Beach Police Department, and also what the combination of present job and election would do to his family life, and decided against it.
More recently, however, McDonnell began to reconsider. Then, reportedly, when Sheriff Baca announced that he was pulling out of the race, McDonnell resolved to enter it. By the end of Friday of last week, he met with Baca’s long time campaign consultant, Parke Skelton, and his partners Steve Barkan and Mike Shimpock. This past weekend, word began to drift out that McDonnell’s entry was now a done deal.
Campaign watchers are already criticizing McDonnell for waiting to get into the race. Whether the voters of Los Angeles County will care about the timing or not remains to be seen.
THE FIELD OF CANDIDATES
The candidates that McDonnell will face in the race include former LASD commander and department whistleblower, Bob Olmsted, who is respected by many of the rank and file and whose testimony before the jail commission was considered to be very significant. Olmsted is represented by veteran campaign consultant, John Shallman, a heavy hitter who ran City Attorney Mike Feuer’s campaign, and who has upped Olmsted’s media presence—and his name recognition—considerably, making him a strong candidate and the leading counterpoint to Baca when the sheriff was still in the race.
Former LASD undersheriff Paul Tanaka is also in the race and, prior to McDonnell’s entry, has the most name recognition in the field, much of it laden with controversy. He is, however, considered to have a healthy war chest, which will be handy, come TV ad time.
LASD’s Pat Gomez, who has run for the position twice before, and has successfully sued the department for workplace retaliation, is another candidate, along with the LAPD’s Lou Vince, whose twitter commentary has been a smart and lively presence in social media—namely Twitter (@Vince4Sheriff)—since the race began.
Most recently, LASD Assistant Sheriff Todd Rogers announced his candidacy last Tuesday after Baca’s retirement announcement. That same day, Assistant Sheriff Jim Hellmold said he too was considering a run, but was undecided. (Sheriff Baca gave both Hellmold and Rogers his backing near the end of his Tuesday press conference.)
Hellmold is reportedly planning to announce his candidacy later this week and is rumored to have already made good use of Baca’s fundraising connections.
(More on those two as their campaigns heat up.)
Right now, according to the statement announcing McDonnell’s entry, his candidacy is being endorsed by a list of well-known local figures, including the following.
LAPD Chief Charlie Beck
LA District Attorney Jackie Lacey
Former LA DA Steve Cooley
LA City Attorney Mike Feuer
Former California Assembly Speaker Bob Hertzberg
Former LA Police Commission President Rick Caruso
Former CA Attorney General John Van de Kamp
Congressmember Tony Cardinas
State Senator Ted Lieu
LAPD Deputy Chief Terry Hara
It looks to be an interesting race.
Among the decisions that LA voters are going to have to make is whether they think an insider or an outsider is best suited to clean up the considerable mess that it the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department.
In the coming days, we will assuredly look at both perspectives.
In the meantime, here’s what Olmsted had to say on Monday afternoon about McDonnell’s entry into the field:
“The only thing I didn’t hear in Jim McDonnell’s announcement was ‘thank you’ for my efforts to take out Lee Baca; creating the environment for political opportunists like McDonnell to run. I’m proud to have worked with federal authorities to expose corruption in the Sheriff’s department and taking a stand when no one else, including McDonnell, would do so. I am disappointed that McDonnell’s first decision as a candidate is to hire Lee Baca’s political team of advisors. LA County voters can’t afford to put another politician into the Sheriff’s office. We need a tough, independent law enforcement professional with the courage to stand up against corruption and to fight for our taxpayers and our most vulnerable citizens–not the politicians.”