The Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs (ALADS) dropped a bombshell Wednesday when it announced it had endorsed Alex Villanueva to be the next Los Angeles County Sheriff.
The endorsement mirrors a similar situation in Riverside County, where strong support from the deputies’ union allowed Lieutenant Chad Bianco to force unpopular Sheriff Stan Sniff into a fall runoff. Like the LASD, Riverside Sheriffs are also dealing with historically low morale, a sense the department is mismanaged at every level, a lack of progressive thinking, and an inability to recruit or retain deputies headed for early retirement or greener pastures at other agencies. They, too, are a mess. And their union has taken a similarly strong stand to bring about reform.
In an email to deputies, ALADS President Ron Hernandez explained, “Alex is one of us… He has been a tireless advocate for deputies, especially during moments in the department’s history when it was necessary to speak truth to those in power. Alex’s track record demonstrates an ability to initiate reform while staying acutely connected to our needs and experiences. His impressive primary election campaign has already shown how he can raise morale, inspire and represent us.”
The endorsement comes after 97% of deputy sheriffs voted no confidence in McDonnell in a survey earlier this year. Only 34 of the over 1,400 deputies responding to the survey felt confident in McDonnell’s leadership.
“The underlying sentiments which drove responses should certainly be of concern to Sheriff McDonnell,” ALADS said at the time. “In particular, the Sheriff should take note that this vote represents a loss of confidence in him by a significant number of his deputies.”
The endorsement also comes after a primary election in which McDonnell, who won 75% of the vote less than four years ago, couldn’t muster more than 48%, despite huge name recognition, rock-solid establishment support, conventional wisdom you cannot beat an incumbent, the endorsement of the Los Angeles Times, and a half-million dollars in fundraising (mostly from wealthy West LA/Beverly Hills types–the same trough he’s going back to now in the general election).
It also comes after Villanueva pulled in over 30% of the vote, despite little name recognition, virtually no budget or campaign machine like those fielded by challenger Bob Lindsey and incumbent McDonnell. Rather, what Villanueva offered was the assertion that McDonnell’s reform was fake and impermanent and the view that it was possible to chart a progressive vision for Southern California law enforcement in a way that also supports the men and women placing themselves in harm’s way.
The early and strong endorsement is especially noteworthy given ALADS’ declining to make an endorsement in the primary election (while the deputy sheriff contract was under negotiation) and given the significant resources that will now be made available to Villanueva.
While McDonnell’s support was strongest among wealthier, white, establishment types, Villanueva found strong support among African Americans, Hispanics, and those with whom LASD’s relationship is supposedly most strained.
Now that ALADS has endorsed Villanueva, you can expect many other Southern California labor unions to follow suit, due to an unwritten rule that they tend to follow the lead of the largest union at each organization. The endorsement also signals that ALADS may use its significant political budget to advocate for Villanueva.
Here is ALADS’ statement in full:
Today we have announced our endorsement of Alex Villanueva in the November 2018 election for Los Angeles County Sheriff. He embodies the essential characteristics and values required to lead the department: integrity, honesty, tenacity, courage, and connectivity with his fellow deputies.
This decision comes after serious deliberation amongst our Board of Directors and numerous conversations with you – the members whom we represent and serve. It is our firm belief that the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department needs to be transformed and that Alex is best suited to lead that change given his background, skills, and character.
Alex is one of us. He has over three decades of experience as a deputy, has served in the United States Air Force and the California Army National Guard, and earned a Doctorate in Public Administration while studying the impact of diversity on law enforcement leadership. He has been a tireless advocate for deputies, especially during moments in the department’s history when it was necessary to speak truth to those in power.
Alex’s track record demonstrates an ability to initiate reform while staying acutely connected to our needs and experiences. His impressive primary election campaign has already shown how he can raise morale, inspire and represent us.
Please feel free to contact any of your board representatives if you have any questions or concerns.