Long Beach Police Chief Jim McDonnell announced Tuesday evening that he will not be challenging Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca in next year’s election.
McDonnell, a well respected former top LAPD official, had been considering running for several months. If he had run, he would have been the most formidable challenger to face Baca since he became sheriff some 15 years ago.
In an interview with The Times, McDonnell said he made his decision over the weekend, after considering how much time it would take to raise funds. He said that task would have taken him away from his family and his duties in Long Beach.
“It would have been a year and a half ahead of me of fundraising and politicking,” said McDonnell, who served on the blue ribbon panel that blasted Baca for allowing a culture of abuse to form inside the nation's largest jail system.
Now, the only definite challengers Baca faces are a little-known LAPD officer, Lou Vince, and a retired sheriff’s lieutenant, Patrick Gomez, who has run two failed campaigns before. Paul Tanaka, the controversial undersheriff who Baca recently pressured to step down, is also considering a run.
For many of Baca’s critics, McDonnell had represented the best hope to keep the sheriff from winning his fifth term in office.
Baca has faced a string of scandals in recent years. Federal authorities are investigating the department, including allegations of deputies harassing minorities in the Antelope Valley and abusing jail inmates. In addition to the federal probes, Baca had been under fire for questionable hires, giving special treatment to friends and supporters and the existence of aggressive, unsanctioned deputy cliques within his department’s ranks.
Despite these problems, political experts said knocking the four-term sheriff from his post would be a challenge. Baca is well-known within the county, and has drawn support from a diverse set of ethnic groups and community leaders. Baca has gained a reputation for progressive law enforcement views, such as helping the homeless and providing education for jail inmates. He's also already lined up a string of heavyweight endorsements, and competing with him in fundraising would be a challenge, experts said.
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