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L.A. County Supervisor Race: Barger vs Park

L.A. County Supervisor 5th District Candidates Kathryn Barger and Darrell Park
Kathryn Barger and Darrell Park, Candidates for  L.A. County Supervisor 5th District

A vast difference in campaign fundraising separates Darrell Park and Kathryn Barger as they battle to replace termed-out 5th District Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael Antonovich.

This year's campaigns for the 5th and 4th district seats are notable, as longtime incumbents Antonovich and Don Knabe will term out of both posts in December. Those departures created a horse race in place of historically sleepy contests in which the incumbent was almost certain to prevail.

Barger and Park fought off a field of six other candidates to make their way to the coming November run-off. Barger pulled in 29.6 percent of the primary vote to Park's 15.5 percent, with Park edging out Sen. Bob Huff, R-San Dimas, by 2,826 votes for the second spot on the Nov. 8 ballot.

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Barger, chief deputy supervisor to Antonovich, is promoting her 28 years of experience with county issues, which she says has provided her ``with a unique, on-the-ground understanding of the supervisor's job.''

Park, meanwhile, has appealed to progressive sensibilities, telling residents that a vote for Barger is a vote to continue what he characterizes as right-wing and discriminatory policies promoted by Antonovich.

Park also sought to tie Barger to sentiment against Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump -- despite the fact that Barger has unequivocally stated she does not support Trump's ``radical agenda.'' But Park was forced by a court ruling to drop that language from his candidate statement, along with a comment on party affiliation.

The 5th District includes the Antelope and Santa Clarita valleys and a portion of the San Gabriel and San Fernando valleys and foothills. The area is widely viewed as more conservative than the balance of Los Angeles

County, but includes communities with diverse concerns, from Porter Ranch to Palmdale.

Antonovich, who has held the seat for 36 years, has thrown his support behind Barger.

``Kathryn Barger is a strong leader with the experience, qualifications, and good judgment to solve complex county issues,'' Antonovich said, assuring voters Barger wouldn't require ``on-the-job training.''

Antonovich was joined in his endorsement by Supervisors Sheila Kuehl, Knabe and Hilda Solis, as well as former supervisors Zev Yaroslavsky and Gloria Molina.

Barger also has the backing of unions representing sheriff's deputies, county firefighters and district attorneys, as well as the Service Employees International Union Local 721, which represents most county employees.

Park is endorsed by Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Los Angeles, and Assemblyman Mike Gatto, D-Glendale, as well as the state and county Democratic Party and dozens of other Democratic clubs and committees.

Park points to his work as a White House staffer at the Office of Management and Budget as evidence of his readiness for the county job. He's now an entrepreneur focused on clean energy start-ups.

``Los Angeles County needs leaders with new ideas, progressive values and a demonstrated ability to bring people together to tackle the problems we face,'' Park says.

In recent debates, Park said he thinks he could spend taxpayer money more efficiently and build on solutions found in other jurisdictions.

``We have a county government that's not functioning properly,''

Barger has named job creation as a priority and also said she'd like to do more to improve services for children and families.

During the KPCC debate, she reminded voters that the race is a non- partisan one.

``I personally believe that people are tired of partisan politics,'' Barger said. ``They want to know, what are you going to do to make sure that you are representing us.''

Though Barger is running on the fact that she's not a career politician, she has a host of supporters from both ends of the political spectrum, including Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, Lancaster Mayor Rex Parris, former Govs. George Deukmejian and Pete Wilson and Reps. Grace Napolitano, D-El Monte, and Steve Knight, R-Palmdale.

Barger has raised more than 10 times as much money as Park, with about $1.6 million in individual contributions and another $1.6 million in funding from the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor.

Park told KPCC that his campaign -- which has raised roughly $188,000 and borrowed another $40,000 as of the latest campaign filings -- is watching its pennies, not paying for yard signs or other campaign collateral that he doesn't believe brings in votes.

The departure of Antonovich and Knabe could significantly change the overall composition of the Board of Supervisors.

The board's other three seats are held by politicians who tend to support liberal policies on many issues, while Knabe and Antonovich have often leaned to the right.

While campaigns for supervisor and the workings of county government have largely failed to gain the close attention of voters, the board controls a nearly $30 billion budget, larger than that of a majority of states.

In providing services to more than 10 million residents in 88 cities and unincorporated areas, the board is able to hold sway on major issues ranging from criminal justice reform to the legality of marijuana dispensaries and environmental regulation.

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