Villanueva faces eight candidates for the position of LA County Sheriff

After three years of a sheriff whose term in office saw a lot of controversy, Los Angeles will have the chance to elect a new one in June 2022.

By Edward Segal, Staff Writer

A Portait of Los Angeles County Sheriff Alejandro Villanueva hangs next to a list of LACCD officials in the lobby of the sheriff's office on campus. Los Angeles Valley College, California. November, 1. 2021 (Luis Flores/ The Valley Star)

Several candidates have challenged Alex Villanueva for the position of Los Angeles County Sheriff in wake of the numerous controversies he has been involved in, looking to take his spot following the June election.

The only person to have successfully challenged an incumbent sheriff in the last century was Villanueva himself, when he became the 33rd sheriff, beating out Jim McDonnell for the position in 2018. According to the sheriff’s department’s website, Villanueva “commands the largest Sheriff’s Department in the United States, with nearly 18,000 budgeted sworn and professional staff,” leaving the elected sheriff with their work cut out for them.

The homeless crisis is a main concern for Villanueva as he looks to stay in office, according to his campaign website.

“As the elected Sheriff providing safety to over ten million residents, I have been inundated with calls for action by residents from all over the County regarding our homeless crisis,” said Villanueva. “Residents are frustrated with government failures to reduce homelessness and its impacts. Aside from the disastrous public safety and health effects, residents are fed up with the related rise in crime, and the takeover of many public spaces by homeless encampments.”

What he has already done is instituted body cameras for deputies, and he removed the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency from prisons in LA, first banning them from being in the prisons, and then preventing inmates from being transferred to them, according to ktla.

Many candidates, however, have expressed their concerns with his policies.

According to the LA Times, eight people have entered the race to dethrone Villanueva, including Long Beach Police Chief Robert Luna, retired Sheriff’s Capt. Matt Rodriguez and Chief of Airport Police at LAX Cecil Rhambo.

Many candidates are running because they believe Villanueva has done a poor job in office, and want to reverse the damage he has done, such as allowing gangs to run in the department and failing to enforce vaccine mandates among his staff.

Rhambo, who according to Los Angeles World Airports retired from his job as Assistant Sheriff at the LA Sheriff’s Department in 2014, is running because of the corruption he believes Villanueva has enabled since being elected.

"As sheriff, I'll stop the corruption, fight crime, address homelessness and make our criminal justice system more just and fair so that it works for all of us,'' said Rhambo in his campaign video.

In a campaign video called “For Good,” Rhambo says that he previously worked for the 30th sheriff of LA County, whom he believed resembled the poor qualities in Villanueva. Rhambo testified against former sheriff Lee Baca, who was then convicted for obstructing an FBI investigation into abuses in county jails.

“Today, the corruption is no different,” says Rhambo in his video. “Sheriff Alex Villanueva is the Donald Trump of LA County.”

Rhambo also provides statistics relating to his goal of fighting crime and ending corruption including that the murder rate in LA County has jumped over 95 percent since 2020, as reported by the department itself.

Also running are Cmdr. Eliezer Vera, Capt. Britta Steinbrenner and Lt. Eric Strong who have all been with the LA County Sheriff’s Department for about 30 years.

Like Rhambo, Strong intends to end the presence of gangs in the department.

“The leadership of this department is unwilling to even acknowledge the existence of gangs in our ranks,” said Strong in a statement to LAist. “That has left the community’s trust in the Sheriff’s Department in tatters.”

The election next summer will force Angelenos to decide whose hands they want their city to be in.

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