Tanaka Loses Sheriff’s Race by Wide Margin

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Rafu Staff and Wire Reports

Long Beach Police Chief Jim McDonnell won the race for Los Angeles County sheriff on Tuesday by a 3-to-1 margin against former Undersheriff Paul Tanaka.

As of Friday, the count was 743,406 votes (75.06 percent) for McDonnell, 247,043 (24.94 percent) for Tanaka.

In the June primary, McDonnell was first with 49 percent of the vote. A majority of the vote would have allowed him to win outright. Tanaka was second with 15 percent, finishing ahead of five other candidates. Four of those candidates endorsed McDonnell and one endorsed Tanaka.

Paul Tanaka and his wife Valerie

Paul Tanaka and his wife Valerie

For months after the primary, Tanaka, who is also mayor of Gardena, did not actively campaign, leading some to believe he had dropped out. In the last few months, he resumed making public appearances and posting messages and videos online. However, he declined to debate McDonnell.

Tanaka retired from the Sheriff’s Department in 2013 after serving more than 30 years. He had been accused by a civilian review commission of promoting a culture in which sheriff’s deputies went undisciplined for violence against jail inmates.

Tanaka said he had never condoned excessive force and maintained that he was scapegoated by those who did not want to see him succeed his former boss, Sheriff Lee Baca, who resigned earlier this year. While testifying in the federal trial of another deputy, however, Tanaka acknowledged that he was under investigation as part of a continuing federal probe into the county jails.

A Tanaka campaign ad stated that he had the courage “to do what cops do best — put criminals behind bars and make your community safer; to keep the constitutional rights of the citizens at the forefront; to make the hard decisions and tough choices necessary to get the LASD back on track.”

From July 1 to Oct. 18, McDonnell raised $620,000 in campaign donations, compared to $27,000 for Tanaka’s campaign.

“A long campaign journey is now finally and thankfully over,” McDonnell said on election night with his family and District Attorney Jackie Lacey by his side.

McDonnell, a 29-year LAPD veteran, will succeed Interim Sheriff John Scott, who endorsed McDonnell shortly before the general election.

“Thank you to all of our supporters for standing with me throughout this campaign — we came this far because of you,” Tanaka said in a statement. “Congratulations to Sheriff Jim McDonnell. I wish him and the dedicated men and women of the Sheriff’s Department all the best as they continue their efforts to fight crime and make our communities safer.”

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  1. When Tanaka says he never condoned excessive force, one only needs to look at his past actions. For example, his encouraging deputies to “work in the grey area”, his order to jail supervisors to “let deputies do what they want to do” when they tried to rein in aggressive deputies, his own shooting of an unarmed Korean kid whereby peace officers from outside the Sheriff’s Department stated they just witnessed the Sheriff’s Department kill a man (the County paid out a lot of money to the poor kid’s family), his Lynwood Viking tattoo which symbolizes aggression towards minorities at best and racism at worst. The list goes on and on. I have worked around Paul for over two decades and have seen significant abuses, unethical behavior and quite possibly corruption. My hope is that Tanaka can move on to a new career as he has a lot of good qualities as well. Law enforcement just wasn’t the right job for him. He couldn’t handle the power entrusted to him my the people he was supposed to serve.

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