In a surprising turn of events, WitnessLA has learned that Sheriff Lee Baca will announce that he will not finish out his term as the head of the nation’s largest sheriff’s department. The announcement will reportedly come at 10 am Tuesday morning.
Up until now, 71-year-old Sheriff Baca has continued to reaffirm that he was running for a fifth term as sheriff. And that he wasn’t at all worried about challengers Bob Olmsted and Paul Tanaka, who are considered to be the most serious of the candidates running against him. Yet, with the unveiling of 18 federal indictments in December, and many more reportedly still to come, plus a rising tide of department scandals that still shows no sign of abatement, observers were no longer calling Baca’s reelection a sure thing.
Baca is presently serving his fourth term in office. He was sworn in for his first term as sheriff on December 7, 1998.
The pending announcement comes as a shock to even most of those who know the sheriff, sources told us. Baca reportedly spoke to each of the members of the LA County Board of Supervisors individually on Monday night. He reportedly briefed members of his command staff days before, meeting with many of them individually.
WHO WILL TAKE BACA’S PLACE?
It will be up to the LA County Board of Supervisors to choose an interim sheriff to replace Baca, although attorneys from the County Counsel’s office are expected to brief the board in the near future on the fine points of this process.
With the sitting sheriff removing himself from the race, at least one, possibly two additional candidates are likely to enter the contest to join the existing top contenders—Olmsted and Tanaka.
One of those, Assistant Sheriff Todd Rogers, is expected to announce his candidacy as early as Tuesday—reportedly with Baca’s blessing, and possibly the support of some of the sheriff’s high ticket donors.
The other possible new entry is Long Beach Chief of Police/former LAPD Assistant Chief Jim McDonnell, who was considering stepping into the race even before word of Baca’s impending announcement was confirmed. (Last summer McDonnell came close to declaring his candidacy, but then decided against it.)
In the meantime, Tanaka is said to have acquired some deep pocket campaign donors. While Olmsted’s campaign is now being run by heavy hitter veteran campaign consultant, John Shallman, who most recently ran Mike Feuer’s campaign for City Attorney.