Who will replace L.A. County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl — a seasoned Sacramento legislator or a millennial West Hollywood activist? The answer appears to be one or the other as the two candidates for one of California’s most powerful women’s offices seek to capitalize on intense scrutiny of their records.
Kuehl, who took on the role of California’s top county official at age 52, has been widely criticized for her work style and a lack of transparency. She clashed with other county boards who questioned her and refused to comply with rules designed to ensure public access to county records.
Under heavy questioning by fellow lawmakers, Kuehl had to acknowledge to the committee she had ordered law enforcement officers to ignore their ethical obligations to protect human rights. She was also forced to apologize to those who had been the victims of her administration’s practices. And her campaign has faced questions over a pair of political donations that came, as it turns out, from a company that does business with the county.
She is seeking re-election, and her campaign has focused on addressing the allegations against her and calling on voters to support her as she tries to rebuild public trust after a long period of criticism. It’s a contrast in approach that has left many observers scratching their heads.
“I’ve never seen a campaign fight back like this before. I’ve never seen a politician fight back like this before,” said Chris Cate, a political strategist who worked on the campaigns of Kuehl, her predecessor Eric Garcetti (whose run for supervisor was in part fueled by the Kuehl-backed Proposition 30, which sought to end the practice of paid sick leave) and former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. “I’m trying to figure out if we have two candidates or one candidate running for supervisor of one of the most powerful women’s offices in the country.”
The race is a contest with no clear front-runner, and two of the major contenders — Kuehl and Republican City Councilman Mitch O’Farrell — are well ahead of their opponents in cash on hand and campaign expenditures.
The race will be decided by a primary vote on June 20.
Both candidates have been fighting to repair the damage done by