When it came time to make his endorsement in the hot race to succeed Los Angeles County Supervisor Yvonne B. Burke, Sheriff Lee Baca didn't pick just one candidate to fill the 2nd District seat. He picked two.
His selection of both state Sen. Mark Ridley-Thomas (D-Los Angeles) and Los Angeles City Councilman Bernard C. Parks -- widely considered the two leading contenders -- was not a matter of hedging his bet in the June 3 race, a Baca spokesman said.
Baca issued dual endorsements because he felt both candidates were "highly qualified" for the job, said Sheriff's Department spokesman Steve Whitmore.
Nine candidates have registered to run for the seat, which Burke is vacating after 16 years. The central-county district extends from mid-Los Angeles south to Carson and comprises nine cities and more than a dozen sections of unincorporated county land.
The battle for endorsements and the attention of voters has been intense.
Parks, a 64-year-old former Los Angeles Police Department chief, has Burke's support as well as the backing of several of his council colleagues. Ridley-Thomas, 53, a former civil rights activist who rose through the ranks of elected office beginning with a seat on the Los Angeles City Council, is backed by colleagues in the state Legislature and by the county's powerful labor unions.
Baca's support was sought by both Ridley-Thomas and Parks.
It's not the first time Baca has given his backing to adversaries in the same campaign.
In the battle to become the next Los Angeles city attorney, Baca endorsed Councilman Jack Weiss and then urged a rival, former Deputy Dist. Atty. Carmen "Nuch" Trutanich, to run in the race, scheduled for 2009. He also backed opposing candidates in a state Senate contest.