Long Beach Police Chief Jim McDonnell today jumped into the race for L.A. County Sheriff, joining a field that has become crowded since Sheriff Lee Baca announced his resignation last week.
McDonnell, a former LAPD assistant chief, has long been considered a formidable contender, but he announced last summer that he would not run. At the time, it appeared that Baca would be too tough to beat.
But McDonnell has been reconsidering for months, as the drumbeat of scandals continued to take its toll on Baca. When Baca announced his resignation last Tuesday, it seemed all but inevitable that McDonnell would get in the race.
McDonnell announced the endorsements of a wide range of office-holders, instantly making him the leading choice among the county's political establishment.
Among his supporters are District Attorney Jackie Lacey, former District Attorney Steve Cooley, LAPD Chief Charlie Beck and L.A. City Attorney Mike Feuer.
Another notable supporter is LAPD Deputy Chief Terry Hara. Hara publicly considered entering the race last week, but he has bowed out to make way for McDonnell.
McDonnell served on the Citizens Commission on Jail Violence, which issued a blistering indictment of Baca's leadership in its 2012 report. That report also faulted former Undersheriff Paul Tanaka, who is now one of the candidates seeking the top job.
Also in the race are two other sheriff's officials – Assistant Sheriff Todd Rogers and former Commander Robert Olmsted – who are both campaigning as reformers. Rogers announced last week, after Baca encouraged him and Assistant Sheriff Jim Hellmold to get in the race.
Olmsted, a whistleblower who was a key witness at the jails commission, previously said that he decided to run only after McDonnell opted not to last summer.
Though he has an long list of endorsements, McDonnell has never before run for office. Tanaka, meanwhile, is the mayor of Gardena, while Rogers is a Lakewood councilman.
McDonnell does have one key advantage, though: He is the only major candidate from outside the department.
In an interview, Rogers said that he had been picking up support from city officials since his announcement last week.
“Jim McDonnell's a good guy, I consider him a friend. I think it's gonna be exciting,” Rogers said. “This is a daunting undertaking but I'm excited by the reaction. The organization is rallying around me. They want me to be the guy that fixes things from the inside.”
Update: Olmsted is out with a statement and he sounds pissed:
“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.”
Hm. Did Robert Kennedy thank Eugene McCarthy for taking out Lyndon Johnson?
More Olmsted: “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.”