Column: Winter is coming for Sheriff Villanueva, one way or another

In cream khakis, gray Oakley sneakers and a sherbet striped polo shirt, Alex Villanueva looked more like her uncle from Santa Clarita than the Los Angeles County Sheriff.

On Santa Monica’s sunny Third Street Promenade around noon Saturday, he stood outside a now-closed Mediterranean restaurant with a “Re-Elect Villanueva” banner hanging below a “For Lease” sign. A security guard stood in front of the door.

LA County’s chief attorney looked relaxed, even happy. And then he looked at me.

His campaign had sent out a press release promoting a walk-and-talk with local residents and shopkeepers about homelessness. It sounded like a repeat of what Villanueva did in June 2021, when he strutted down Venice’s promenade in a cowboy hat and promised crackdown in a jurisdiction that wasn’t even his.

I was expecting the same charade in Santa Monica, so I wore the rancho-libertarian part. I wore my 501s, good leather shoes, a western shirt with a mother-of-pearl clasp, and the coup de grace: my glorious one cinto pitado complete with arabesque patterns and my full initials – GAM, for Gustavo Arellano Miranda – on the belt buckle.

For the past year, Villanueva and I had layered diss tracks public, online, and in print. I figured a lunchtime stroll — the wannabe cowboy and doodling son of one — would be a fitting next round.

“I’ll follow you today,” I said the sheriff.

“How about that?” Villanueva replied, eyeing my ensemble. He then snuck back into the restaurant, which became the campaign’s temporary headquarters.

These are desperate times for the incumbent. His opponent, retired Long Beach Police Commissioner Robert Luna, attended a Women for Luna event in East Los Angeles that same afternoon, attended by organizers and community politicians who helped Villanueva, in 2018 a surprise bring about.

An October poll by the UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies, co-sponsored by The Times, found that 36% of likely voters favored Luna, while 26% wanted Villanueva. 44 percent viewed the sheriff negatively.

On Third Street Promenade, shoppers paid little attention. They paid more attention to the dinosaur-shaped bushes, the giant Día de los Muertos skeletons, the couple dressed like Edward Scissorhands and Swamp Thing. A man went to Villanueva headquarters to grab a campaign hat, then suggested his wife – who had been browsing the clothing store next door – to take a quick picture with the man of the day.

“No,” she replied. they went away

Shortly thereafter, Villanueva let out a loud whistle. About 20 volunteers signed up. A while later, a middle-aged Latina cornered me.

“Why do you have to tell so many lies?” said Michelle, who declined to give her last name or where she lived. When I asked for examples, she explained that I had spread “false negative propaganda” about Villanueva.

like what

“That he drinks children’s blood,” Michelle replied.

Um, that’s the language Villanueva himself used to describe how the political establishment views him.

Michelle continued to praise Villanueva’s perceived virtues until I realized what she was doing: The sheriff had fled down a back alley in a getaway car.

Curses!

I rushed to my Yukon with a Times photographer and sped through the Pico neighborhood of Santa Monica, where his campaign spokesman told me Villanueva was campaigning.

After a fruitless half hour – imagine The Fast and Furious meets Mario Kart – we returned to the boardwalk where more volunteers were now waiting for their man. Just a few steps away, a street musician played “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” on his violin.

Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva interacts with people on Third Street Promenade

Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva interacts with people along the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica.

(Kyusung Gong / For Time)

The Sheriff came out with Tariq Ali and Chie Lunn on either side. Ali is a security guard in Venice who lost a finger last summer after an attacker slashed it open with a broken vodka bottle. Lunn lives in Venice and teaches at Realm Creative Academy in Santa Monica. She has publicly criticized LA City Council Member Mike Bonin and other officials for their treatment of homeless people, whom she accused of making it unsafe to take their students to the beach or the subway.

“When I called for help, I couldn’t tell you who the sheriff was,” Lunn told me. “Just him and Judge [U.S. District Court Judge David O.] Carter listened. I get a lot of criticism for being a black woman who supports the sheriff. Well, I’m not a sign for anyone.”

Here, as in Venice, residents can vote in the Nov. 8 sheriff’s contest, but their streets are patrolled by city police officers.

A hatless Villanueva and his followers marched two blocks up the boardwalk and then down. If he expected crowds to join, they didn’t. Only a few people went to greet him. A group of mimosa-drinking cillennials only applauded at the prompting of a volunteer. The warmest welcome came from Sandro Martin, co-owner of his family’s restaurant, Casa Martin.

“You were here about a month ago!” he said to Villanueva. “This is your house.”

But the chummyness was a bit contrived: Turns out, Martin and Villanueva’s main strategist, Javier Gonzalez, grew up together in Santa Monica. Gonzalez even had a tattoo of Martin’s late cousin’s name on his right shoulder.

The rally ended in front of a statue of Día de los Muertos. The street musician’s playlist had turned somber. Villanueva said nothing beyond his main talking points — that homelessness, violent crime and public corruption are destroying Los Angeles County and only he has the courage to fight back. There were boos when someone mentioned LA mayoral candidate Karen Bass and laughter as he trashed the LA Times.

That was my cue.

Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva poses for a photo with people dining at a Santa Monica restaurant

Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva poses for a photo with people dining at a Santa Monica restaurant

(Kyusung Gong / For Time)

Surrounded by dozens of Villanueva fans, I asked him how he expected to win as polls showed him from behind.

The relaxed Villanueva disappeared. The Villanueva we all know – a man who twists facts like a pretzel maker and has revenge on his mind – returned.

“A survey,” he said, raising his index finger and then pointing at me. “Your Opinion poll.”

Everyone laughed.

He didn’t bother to say that there actually were two Berkeley/LA Times polls — and the percentage of likely voters who favored him dwindled each time.

Villanueva said so his The campaign “conducted a legitimate survey where we actually asked all the right questions.” And wouldn’t you know He and Luna were tied up.

So how do you win? I repeated.

“We will do what we do,” he said. “My opponent – ​​first candidate in history [who] decides to run without a single plan to do anything. On the homeless front, all he says is, “This is unacceptable. Oh, gee, thanks for that revelation.”

Before I could point out that Luna long ago unveiled a multi-pronged strategy on a range of issues, one supporter yelled, “He’s going to win because we’re going to vote for it. That’s why.”

Everyone applauded.

Someone asked if Villanueva and Luna had argued. “He’s running away from me,” Villanueva said. “He doesn’t want anything to do with me on stage.”

In fact, the candidates appeared together or online at three main debates and two community forums, where everyone had the opportunity to answer questions from moderators and the audience.

Their only one-on-one debate was such a non-sequitur of a disaster — Villanueva accused Luna of being a gang member and a racist, recited every East LA school his wife Vivian had attended, and answered a reason question in overly formal Spanish known only to him – that no one but Villanueva has mourned the lack of a replay.

Retired Long Beach Police Commissioner Robert Luna, left, and Los Angeles Sheriff Alex Villanueva debate

Retired Long Beach Police Commissioner Robert Luna, left, and Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva debate September 21 at the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles.

(Allen J. Cockroaches / Los Angeles Times)

The sheriff went on to insist that Luna would become a “corrupt politician” because he had expressed an interest in repairing the sheriff’s department’s relationship with, well, everyone.

“He was literally born and raised in bureaucracy – a failed one – and he wants to marry himself into a bigger bureaucracy,” Villanueva said. “It won’t fix anything.”

Then he looked at me again.

“You know that very well because you’re a smart man, and I haven’t seen the LA Times dissect Mr. Luna’s answer to anything because he doesn’t have answers. But the worst part is that you don’t even ask the questions. That’s the scariest part right there.”

Everyone cheered.

I didn’t have the heart to tell his admirers that it was Villanueva, not Luna, who used his meeting with the LA Times editors to roar without any evidence that one of his main critics, LA County Inspector General Max Huntsman, it is a Holocaust denier.

The street musician suddenly struck up a new tune: “Winter” from Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons”. The concert’s dark, frenetic tones of mayhem and closure sounded like a cosmic joke as Villanueva returned to his headquarters, where everyone was munching pizza.

Or was it a warning?

https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2022-10-31/column-alex-villanueva-santa-monica Column: Winter is coming for Sheriff Villanueva, one way or another

Alley Einstein

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