Three races for seats on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors will be decided today, but there is little suspense about the outcome.
The five members of the board control a budget of nearly $24 billion and make dozens of decisions each week that affect local roadways, public safety, development and environmental conservation, social services, child welfare, emergency room care and other issues critical to county residents.
But despite the power of the position, incumbents rarely face strong opposition during election season and, until 2002, were not subject to term limits. The last time an incumbent was defeated was in 1980, when Michael Antonovich was elected supervisor of the county's Fifth District.
Now 72, Antonovich has since served eight consecutive terms. He is up for reelection today and, if he wins, will serve his final term as supervisor, representing the district that includes some or all of the Antelope, Crescenta, Pomona, San Fernando, San Gabriel and Santa Clarita valleys.
"To the supervisor, representing and serving the people of the Fifth District is an honor -- and his record of responsive constituent service and providing quality municipal services, including public safety, fire service, parks, libraries, open space and trails will be reflected favorably by voters at election time," Antonovich aide Tony Bell said.
Antonovich's ballot statement cites a list of accomplishments, including his fight to keep public safety and foster children as the county's top priorities, initiating funding to hire additional sheriff's deputies, his work on extending regional transportation, efforts to increase open space, parks and trails by 40 percent, and establishing a veterans' internship program to train and employ returning armed forces members.
But Palmdale businessman and Antonovich opponent Raj Pal Kahlon, 50, said he believes it's time for someone new to take over.
"Things aren't getting done in Los Angeles the way people want," Kahlon told City News Service, citing the troubled Department of Children and Family Services as a prime example. "They are not taking the right steps to fix the problems. They should be running this like a business. They don't hold people responsible."
Kahlon says he's deliberately refusing campaign funds and endorsements in order to avoid being beholden to special interests. But it's hard to see how he'll unseat Antonovich with a strictly grass-roots approach.
"I am campaigning very hard and I have lots and lots of support from the community," Kahlon said.
The other two incumbents up for reelection -- Supervisor Don Knabe, 68, representing the Fourth District, and Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, 57, representing the Second District -- are running unopposed. The U-shaped Fourth District covers coastal cities from Marina del Rey to Long Beach and an area that borders Orange County from Lakewood east to Diamond Bar. The Second District includes South Los Angeles and runs north beyond Culver City and Exposition Park, south to Carson, west to Hawthorne and Lawndale, and east to include Compton, Lynwood and Willowbrook.
Though today's election is unlikely to offer any surprises, the board is set for a major overhaul in the next four years.
Knabe has been in office since 1996 and, like Antonovich, can serve only through 2016. Supervisors Gloria Molina and Zev Yaroslavsky will term out in 2014, leaving 80 percent of the board open to newcomers over the next two election cycles.
Ridley-Thomas is wrapping up his first term and will be able to run again in 2016.