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Criminal Justice

Sheriff Villanueva Has Raised Lots More Cash Than His Challengers

Sheriff Alex Villanueva, wearing his beige uniform shirt, badge, and brown tie, stands at a podium on a stage with green curtain and partial image of a sign that says 'Hall of Justice.'
L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva.
(L.A. Sheriff's Department)
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L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva raised more than $1.2 million for his re-election campaign last year — more than all six of his challengers combined, according to the latest fundraising reports submitted to the Registrar of Voters.

Villanueva is seeking a second four-year term as the county’s chief law enforcement officer.

While fundraising is only one measure of how well a candidate is performing, the sheriff — considered vulnerable by some because of his combative style and resistance to civilian oversight — has reason to find the numbers encouraging. As former California Treasurer Jesse Unruh famously said in 1966, “Money is the mother’s milk of politics.”

Here are the fundraising totals reported through Dec. 31, 2021:

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A Villanueva spokesperson said the sheriff was pleased with his fundraising, noting, “a lot of it was raised on Zoom.”
As the incumbent, Villanueva would be expected to raise more money earlier in a campaign. Most of his challengers entered the race in the summer and fall.

"Chief Luna just entered the race on Dec. 1, so his initial fundraising report reflects only one month of fundraising,” Luna’s campaign said in a statement. It noted he had “several large fundraisers scheduled in the weeks ahead.”

The Rhambo campaign noted he’d raised the most among the sheriff’s challengers, “even raising more than Villanueva raised in his entire 2018 campaign,” said spokesperson Adam Robak.

In 2018, independent expenditures by the Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs and the L.A. County Democratic Party played a big role in Villanueva’s victory. The deputies union spent more than $1 million on Villanueva's behalf.

The local Democratic Party has soured on the sheriff, calling for his resignation. The union has not said whether it will endorse anyone in the primary.

A spokesman for Villanueva said he expects independent expenditures to play a role in the June 7 primary.

Reaching voters in a countywide race is expensive. Local TV advertising for a week can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The fundraising clock is ticking. While the primary is in early June, mail-in ballots typically are sent to voters as much as a month ahead of election day.

If no one wins a majority in the primary, the top two vote-getters will face off in November.

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