Alex Villanueva declares win in LA County sheriff race despite no concession from Jim McDonnell

ByJosh Haskell and staff KABC logo
Saturday, November 17, 2018
Alex Villanueva declares victory in LA County sheriff race
In the tight race for Los Angeles County sheriff, Alex Villanueva declared victory over incumbent Jim McDonnell on Friday, though the sheriff did not concede.

EAST LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Alex Villanueva declared victory over incumbent Jim McDonnell in the tight race for Los Angeles County sheriff on Friday, but the sheriff did not concede.

Results posted by the L.A. County Registrar show Villanueva with a 57,800-vote lead over current LASD Sheriff McDonnell. In an interview outside his East L.A. office, Villanueva told Eyewitness News the race is over.

"We had a chance to crunch the numbers and look at the results, and we are declaring a win in this race. It is over," he said.

When asked why he thinks McDonnell should concede, he said the margin of the lead has tripled, and he believes that "mathematically, there's no way it's going to reverse course."

The estimated number of outstanding ballots left to be counted in L.A. County is 422,600, according to the registrar's office, and McDonnell isn't ready to concede.

"Still looking optimistically at the path ahead, but also realistic. As we move forward we will continue to judge where we are, but I'm still hopeful," McDonnell said.

The political rivals spent Friday night at an LAPD and LASD charity boxing match in the City of Industry, sitting on opposite sides of the room.

Previously, Villanueva's lead had been about 22,000 votes.

"It's a reflection of the race itself. He had a big advantage, obviously, in raising money and spending money on fancy ads and all that stuff," Villanueva said. "We had a grassroots operation. Our message did arrive - arrived in time - however, it's mostly reflected in the same-day voters and the very-late absentee voters. That's what's being counted now..."

Friday night, it was Villanueva's finances that were getting the attention. The L.A. Times reported the District Attorney's Office is looking into suspicious donations to Villanueva's campaign: whether someone tried to hide their donation by using a different name.

In a statement, Villanueva's campaign told Eyewitness News, "We have no reason to believe any contributions made by any donors were made illegally."

McDonnell's campaign couldn't be reached for comment on the article, but the sheriff said there's too many uncounted votes to concede.

"We were very successful. We had four years that I think if you were using a sports analogy, four championship years and to finish out that and end up in a position like this..." McDonnell said.

McDonnell added that when he took over the department, it was in crisis. He believes he's turned it around, but Villanueva said that McDonnell hasn't done enough, and it seems that L.A. County voters may agree.

If Villanueva wins the race, he'd be the first person to unseat an incumbent in 100 years. He would also be the first Democrat to become sheriff in 138 years.