Alex Villanueva

What Does Villanueva’s New 22,000 Vote Lead Over McDonnell for Sheriff Tell Us? – UPDATED

Celeste Fremon
Written by Celeste Fremon

The numbers in the race for Los Angeles County Sheriff continue to be head spinning.

As most of you know, as of around 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday of this week, dark horse challenger Alex Villanueva, who is hoping to lead the nation’s largest sheriff’s department, has acquired a 22,192 vote lead over incumbent Sheriff Jim McDonnell.

UPDATE:  As of Friday afternoon, that total has raised to a 57,810 for Villanueva over McDonnell.

Yet, Villanueva’s now significant advantage has not been gained in a steady rise.

After the polls closed last Tuesday, by Tuesday night, McDonnell was in the lead. But then on Wednesday morning, when all precincts had finally reported, 4,927 votes separated the two candidates, with challenger Villanueva having surged ahead.

There were, however, still votes left to count—more than 985,000 of them. In LA County, which has a pleasantly transparent system, the registrar/recorder reports the new totals on certain designated days as the counting proceeds.

The first such reporting day was this past Friday, at the end of which, the new totals still had Villanueva ahead, but his lead had shrunk to 335 votes. In other words, McDonnell appeared to be gaining quickly on the dark horse.

And then came Tuesday, November 13’s count, which revealed that, not only had McDonnell’s gain vanished, Villanueva’s lead had ballooned to more than 22 thousand votes, a margin that in some races might designate a victory.

But there are still more than 688,000 votes still to be counted.

The next reporting day is Friday, November 16.

Those exit polls

One indication that Villanueva may keep his advantage is the exit poll conducted by Loyola Marymount University on voting day. In a project called Los Angeles Votes, LMU conducts a series of exit polls and polling place studies using “a breakthrough sampling methodology, the racially stratified homogenous precinct approach.”

The university began the project in an effort to address the exit poll controversies of the 2000 presidential election, which resulted in various national TV networks calling the presidential race results in Florida wrong—not once, but twice—before arriving at the correct “too close to call” pronouncement.

LMU’s first exit poll series was conducted for LA’s 2005 mayoral primary election. Since then, the university’s now 13-year-old project has become the nation’s largest per-capita exit poll.

All this brings us to the LMU project’s exit poll results for last Tuesday’s LA County Sheriff’s race, and its slo-mo final vote count.

According to LMU’s voting day polls, Villanueva is likely to keep his advantage.

Specifically, when Voters who were asked, “In the Sheriff election, for whom did you vote today?” 45.2 percent said, Jim McDonnell, while 54.8 percent said, Alex Villanueva.

Tea leaves and questionable advice

So what conclusions should we draw?

We know that if Villanueva pulls off this upset, it will be the first time a challenger has bested an incumbent sheriff for the job in Los Angeles County in more than 100 years.

Yet we also know that Villanueva benefited both from his outreach to Latino voters, and to democratic voter clubs, given the unusually strong GOTV push among democrats having more to do with races affecting the national political scene, than any of the local contests.

Yet, Loyola Law School professor and criminal justice expert, Laurie Levenson, told WitnessLA that, with more than 600,000 votes left to count “we’re still at the reading tea leaves stage.”

The next round of counting, she said, could easily hit a large “pocket of votes” that favors McDonnell.

On the other hand, Levenson noted, Sheriff McDonnell “made a mistake” in not campaigning more, particularly when it came to his choice not to show up for all but one of the scheduled debates with his challenger.

“I don’t think you can do that in this day and age,” she said. “People want to be heard, and they want to hear the candidates’ response to their questions.”

Whoever told the sheriff he could skip those debates, Levenson said, “gave him bad advice.”

So stay tuned. We will know more on Friday.


  • Alex Villanueva will be the next Sheriff. He will hold to his promises and will rid the Department of those executives that were not only loyal to Tanaka, but purposely kept many members like him down. Many people have no idea what Alex went through just to get to a Station or how many current execs shut the door on him when he applied for a position. Many of these positions in which he was highly qualified for. Alex has not forgotten who he is and where he came from. When he takes office, many eyes will be upon him watching him do the right thing. McDonnell came in fat dumb and happy, and allowed all the suck ups to do just what they have always done, and this was his downfall. I am sure those are the same ones that advised him on how to win the election. How is that working out for him.

  • ….”gave him bad advice.” You Think???

    That’s been the hallmark of his time as Sheriff. He’s been deaf to the rank and file members of the Department, surrounded himself by a cadre of yes men and women, kept his head in the sand regarding the day to day issues his low ranking staff has to endure and pandered to the BOS and LA political money machine. I’m sure he and his advisory staff are scratching their heads and regretting their “back handed dismissal” of Mr. Villanueva.

    Yeah, the incumbent Sheriff messed up, big time. A lesson that omplacency and arrogance will come back and bite you in the you know what.

  • Demographics are destiny. Not only is McDonnell probably the whitest man west of the Sierra Nevada, he didn’t even bother to pay lip sirvice to Sancuary cities nor was he anti Trump enough. Villanueva has the correct last name and he ran as a Democrat (smart). That made McDonnell a kind of Republican by default. And of course Laurie Levenson manages to be wrong about just about everything even with the advantage of hindsight. Why she’s quoted so often is a mystery.

    It’s always fun to see the establishment candidate go down in flames. McDonnell was their guy, if Hispanics get serious about voting there might be some nervous la co. Board of supervisors.

  • The anti Trump poster composed of McDonnell, Trump & Attorney General Sessions opposite of Villanueva with the caption of “Which side are you on” was the “tipping point”. A snart and classic move by the SoCal blue wave. Priceless!

  • Alex “earned” every vote cast for him in this race. I never thought he could pull this off ONLY because the Democrat in-Office politicians, aka the LA County “machine” were going to support McD. In decades past, that was always enough to guarantee re-election. Well this time Alex brilliantly obtained the Democrat Party endorsement, no easy task. All the while, McD touted his BOS endorsement and smugly thought that was enough. Note to McD: Even though your campaign management team “advised” you to no-show at the debates, you and you alone were responsible for that failed decision.

    So if the trend continues, Alex will be the next Sheriff. He earned it, period. The Tanaka Boyz best head for the hills, your numbers are going to get called out for the cancer that you are. McD wanted to play nice and give everyone a pass. He was clueless about the suffering that took place under the Tanaka reign of terror. The good people who were destroyed at a whimsical flick of his skinny, bony finger. Their careers were halted with whispers, lies, fabricated rumors all done with malicious intent. The dirty work executed by his henchmen in return for political gain. Standby folks, let the “reorganization” begin.

    LASD needs a wholesale cleansing and retooling from top to bottom. Alex has the intellect and backbone to do it. McD and his “fresh eyes” political approach failed because he knew nothing about LASD and his inner circle failed him, miserably.

  • Looks like LASD will finally get who and what they always wanted. No gripes down the road are guaranteed.

  • Considering ALADS failing endorsements results, the one they got right was Alex Villanueva being the prized gem.

  • Alex was not ur “typical” ghetto cop at ELA. But he always had ambition and was forward looking ie LASPA. Alex did this on his own and without kissing the BOS ring. Good luck Alex….restore the traditions that were scrapped under the previous administration. And for god sakes… .put OSS/GET back in to raid jackets and jeans!

  • What this really means is that Witness LA has been defeated. If you’ll recall, WLA was nothing before the “LASD scandal” took place 4-5 years ago. WLA has taken credit for ousting Baca and whistleblowing on all the “issues” within the department. WLA pushed and pushed for an “outsider” to come in and “fix this Department” and McDonnell was elected. Now that the department may very well be in the hands of one of their own again, WLA is shaking in their boots. This was NOT the direction WLA wanted the LASD to go. WLA and Celeste have exposed the LASD but now that Villanueva may be coming in, what will happen now with no more outsider at the helm?

  • Somehow, I suspect that many, if not all, of you, will be bitching about Villanueva in a year or two, as you did with McDonnell, and as you did with Baca, and as you did with Block. I think some of you are still nostalgic about the “good ‘ole days” with Pitchess. You may remember him fondly, but in many a mind he will always be associated with his name-sake motion that came about for his refusal to share info on the crooked, racist and abusive officers. Some things never change. I look forward to your gripes about Villanueva in 2019.

  • Captain, let me offer my take on the intent on WLA, but Celeste can speak for herself. Having spent more than three decades on LASD, I had a front row seat to all the internal corruption enacted by one Federal prisoner, Paul Tanaka, along with his henchmen and, to be inclusive, henchwomen. All the while Baca was using his sock puppets to guide him with major decisions while swinging his tennis racket size bubble wand and fairy dust while EPC golf clapped. So fast forward through the Jail Commission, FBI investigation, Federal trial and guilty verdicts. LASD was in a swirl. Common sense would dictate only an outsider or insider/outsider (LASD member who was not connected to the regime) could clean house and turn LASD around.

    So with that, WLA before or after the last election, supported McD for obvious reasons. But the problem with that, McDonnell was absolutely clueless about LASD, there is no dispute to that fact. He gave everyone a pass, clean slate and foolishly marched down the road thinking he was going to be guided by his EPC. He retained and promoted a huge chunk of Tanaka’s team, the very people who did all the dirty work while recruiting their own sub-inner circles. These promotions and assignments by McD were absolutely jaw droppingly foolish. By this time, the core group of seasoned LASD employees just threw their hands up in the air and simply said, “screw it,” and started working towards their date with LACERA.

    So now, their is a strong potential Alex will prevail, let this play out. But I would hope WLA would look at Alex as an insider/outsider. He is as far away from the Tanaka/EPC/McD circle as anyone could be. Yet, he knows the inner world of LASD that McD never knew. So with Alex, there will NOT be any of the same old song. He will keep what works, gut the cancer and take LASD where he thinks it needs to go. The smartest thing he can do is bring in a cadre of retired folks who have no connection to Tanaka for 18 months. Allow them to do the heavy lifting, house cleaning, policy revision, while they and Alex start grooming their replacements. There may be a lot of sergeants and lieutenants today, who will be captains and above within/during the next two years. It will be his people who will have his back and the best interest of LASD in their hearts, not Tanaka’s. By that time, the retired folks recalled to service can rotate out and go back to retirement while Alex has his own team in place. But, that is just my opinion. WLA will report what they report what they report. Let this all play out.

  • ….why not reference Biscaluiz and Block while your at it. Both these men did a great job for LASD. Biscaluiz was instrumental in organizing and putting the operating system in place.

  • I wish you were wrong however you made a valid point. Only time will tell until the moaning and groaning from the “other side” as Los Angeles County’s Liberal Democratic Sheriff takes office.

  • One of McDonnell’s major flaws was his arrogance in looking down upon Alex Villanueva as someone with absolutely no chance to defeat him – then came the June primary results! And still, McDonnell didn’t view Alex as a serious contender. His arrogance that he could avoid several public debates with Alex and come out unscathed was pure folly. Hubris, maybe? What has unfolded thus far is truly an epic David and Goliath political battle. Another of his obvious flaws, and most damaging to the Dept, is his utter lack of leadership skills and ability. This fact became clear throughout the Dept and hopefully became public knowledge when the deputies overwhelmingly voted No Confidence in McDonnell. Kudos to Ron Hernandez and ALADS for supporting Alex. Good call, my friends.

    The majority of LA County voters realize that McDonnell is not the right guy to stay on as Sheriff of Los Angeles County. I’ve heard he’s a nice guy, but he’s obviously not the right guy. Alex has 32 years of LASD experience, something sorely lacking with McDonnell and that fact was painfully clear to the rank and file deputies. I expect Alex to rid the Dept of the Baca/Tanaka cronies that McDonnell foolishly promoted up the food chain, as well as the minions that McDonnell promoted. These folks are probably the same ones that told him to skip the debates. McDonnell was never tan and green and he never will be. He has no clue.

    The public and media are really unaware of the BS perpetrated upon the hard working deputies by the Baca/Tanaka and McDonnell regimes over the past 20 years. The cronyism, favoritism, pay-to-play, Region II rules and f@#k the rest of the Dept, failure of leadership which plagued the Dept from top to bottom, McDonnell’s arrogance and ignorance, his extreme and unjust firing of numerous deputies, lowest morale I’ve seen in the past 30+ years, and the list goes on. There’s a reason the Dept has about 1500 deputy vacancies and that number increases every year as morale plummets, and McDonnell is to blame for that. Based on the foregoing, I believe there is a sign on McDonnell’s door that reads, “The excessive discipline and terminations will continue until morale improves.” Yeah, that sounds about right.

    All these factors and more have led us to this moment in the history our beloved LASD. I’m counting on Alex to unf@#k the Dept. McDonnell, his Adam Henry executive staff and all the other Kool-Aid drinking lackeys have done extensive damage to the Dept – retention/recruitment, work atmosphere/environment, and especially Dept morale. I, for one, am eagerly anticipating the day when McDonnell leaves the Dept and we close that miserable chapter covering the last 20 demoralizing years.

    I wish Alex the best going forward and hope he is the new Sheriff of Los Angeles County.

  • Spade, right on the numbers. I did not feel good about either option but it is clear that the Dept needs a good flushing at the top and a redo. Bring some non-affiliated old timers as place holders while you right the ship and groom up and comers. And for god’s sake take a look at how bloated the place has become with Bureaus created to do tasks that use to be run by Sergeants and Lts! Put that money in to something worthwhile………… radio cars.

  • Should be an interesting end of the month. Lacera may find record number of executives come visit by the end of the year. Alex, drain the swamp. I agree with MAKE IT HAPPEN, the last 20 years have been demoralizing. Although retired, I still hope for a successful future for all those men and women working the front lines. Lets hope some brains float to the top and correct the evils the Baca Tanaka group left us.

    Those that made deals with the devil, Mr. Devil, time to collect.

  • Mr. Villanueva, Just a word of advice to quote several lines from the great O’jays song Backstabbers….

    “All the time they want to take your place
    The back stabbers (back stabbers)
    They smile in your face)
    All the time they want to take your place
    The back stabbers (back stabbers)…..”

    Be leary of any of the existing execs who smile, “appear helpful”, offer an “olive branch” and try to “smooze” up to you. Utilize them just long enough until you can replace them with people you’ve vetted and trust. The tainted Kool-Aide has been drunk by most if not all at the executive levels and the leftovers lapped up by all the brown nosers.

  • And to add, dont forget the lines from the song “Smiling Faces” recorded by the group Undisputed Truth……..

    Smiling faces sometimes
    Pretend to be your friend
    Smiling faces show no traces
    Of the evil that lurks within (can you dig it?)…

  • Here’s a verse from Grand Funk Railroad song, Inside Looking Out which is dedicated to Paul Tanaka….

    I’m sitting here lonely like a broken man.
    I serve my time doing the best I can. Walls and bars they surround me.
    But, I don’t want no sympathy.

  • Exactly! Alex, start with the Tanaka Pay to Play List. These people are forever compromised and tarnished. Do not fall for their fake smiles and promised loyalties. They have no credibility. Just like they paid for their promotions, they will sell you out when the time is right. Disgusting what a circus these people turned LASD into. Some have caused further damage and self promotion pretending to have the Departments best interest. Don’t be fooled! Vet your people out properly. Don’t be foolish like Lee Baca was by going all in with someone like Tall Paul. There are great and honest people on the Department! Find them sir, elevate them, they will do you and the Department right!

  • it will be the end of witness L.A> because all the new replacements know she is very uninformed and never tells anything good toward LASD. Meeting last week she’s out

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