LA County Supervisor’s race pits Hertzberg against Horvath

Presenting at a Candidates Forum at UCLA’s Hammer Museum in late September, the antagonisms between State Senator Bob Hertzberg (D-Van Nuys) and West Hollywood City Councilman Lindsey Horvath became clear.

The veteran Sacramento lawmaker and millennial Westside activist are running to replace Sheila Kuehl, the outgoing Los Angeles District 3 leader.

The bespectacled Hertzberg, 67, sat cross-legged with two 450+ page self-published books to his right. One contained a collection of comments the self-proclaimed “idea man” had written over the past 20 years on issues such as housing and redistribution.

He read a brief invocation from the Torah on good governance and then presented a series of legislative papers that began in 1996 — the same year Horvath entered high school. Hertzberg, a resident of Van Nuys, promised the audience that he would solve problems with big ideas, negotiations and compromises.

When it was Horvath’s turn, the 40-year-old Notre Dame and transplant graduate from Ohio launched straight into her speech. She has campaigned as a grassroots defender of abortion rights, speaking of relying on “21st century solutions” and avoiding “failed strategies of the past.”

At stake is the district of cooling with 2.08 million inhabitants. The winner joins a five-person governing body — currently all women — responsible for a budget of nearly $39 billion.

The redesigned 3rd Ward is approximately 43% White, 37% Latino, 12% Asian, and 4% Black. It covers 431 square miles and stretches from the Westside through the San Fernando Valley. December’s redistribution moved more conservative Valley communities, such as Porter Ranch and Chatsworth, from the 5th to the 3rd Ward.

Hertzberg, whose Senate district intersects with several District 3 communities, took first place in June’s six-man primary with 31% of the vote, just ahead of Horvath with 28%. Hertzberg is also a leader in fundraising.

As of Oct. 21, he had raised more than $5 million, including nearly $3.5 million from four political action committees, $200,000 from Los Angeles County Firefighters Local 1014, and $858,000 from law enforcement groups, including the assn. for the Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs.

By this time, Horvath and allies had raised just under $1.5 million, with two political action committees providing $325,000. Some of her largest donations have come from women’s groups, including the Los Angeles-based Planned Parenthood Advocacy Project and the Women’s Political Committee, each raising $50,000.

The candidates — both Democrats — have focused on three main issues in their campaign emails: solving homelessness, protecting reproductive rights, and portraying each other as closet Republicans.

In the battle of endorsements, both have high-profile support.

Horvath is supported by the LA County Democratic Party, the Los Angeles Planned Parenthood Advocacy Project and the Los Angeles League of Conservation Voters. Four of the five borough leaders, including Kuehl, support her, as do Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia.

Hertzberg received prominent endorsement from Gov. Gavin Newsom. He is also supported by US Senator Alex Padilla, four members of Congress, California Atty. Gen. Rob Bonta, several unions and chambers of commerce and the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights Leadership Action Fund.

Hertzberg served in the state legislature from 1996 to 2002; in his last two years he was speaker. He will be sacked this winter, with his 31-year-old son Daniel stepping in to replace him.

During the campaign, he’s promoting his $1.2 billion expansion of California’s Cal Grant financial assistance program. But another of his signature proposals, which ended cash bail, was overturned by voters in 2020.

Hertzberg “has a relatively good reputation, particularly in the San Fernando Valley,” said Darry Sragow, an associate associate professor of political science at USC.

But Horvath, “who isn’t that well known,” can potentially use that to her advantage, describing the race as the “classic case of the underdog versus the insider,” Sragow said.

Within the Westside, Horvath is a familiar entity. She was appointed to the West Hollywood City Council in 2009, served two years and was elected to the council in 2015. She also served as the city’s mayor for 16 months during the pandemic. She was a founding member of the NoH8 campaign for gay marriage in 2009.

In this campaign, she needed to broaden her appeal. A few months ago, mentions of her ties to West Hollywood, Los Angeles’ LGBTQ+ epicenter, were removed from her website. The deletion irritated some voters.

Horvath has attempted to counteract Hertzberg’s notoriety by winning over some of his supporters. Horvath supported the San Fernando Valley Democratic Party, which Hertzberg helped found. Party leader Sean Rivas called her “a community advocate and passionate supporter,” while calling Hertzberg “unreachable.”

Hertzberg’s response, in various debates, has been to question Horvath’s experience and point to West Hollywood’s small size and population — just 1.9 square miles and approximately 37,000 people — to suggest that Horvath does not prepare for a county leadership role is serving nearly 10 million residents and has more than 66,000 homeless people, compared to West Hollywood’s number of about 40.

But while Hertzberg says his resume gives him “a distinct advantage,” he’s also been investigated for inappropriate behavior throughout his career.

In Sacramento, Hertzberg earned the nickname “Huggy Bear” for his unsolicited hugs and was accused of sexual harassment by a former Fresno-area lawmaker. A Senate investigation in 2018 cleared him of sexual harassment, but his hugs were deemed unwarranted and he was warned to stop doing it.

On October 12, a coalition of women officials and stakeholders issued a letter to Hertzberg’s campcalled for an official apology, disclosure of his training on sexual harassment, and a listening session with survivors and advocacy groups.

Hertzberg’s camp didn’t respond, although earlier this year they claimed he “apologized for his actions, learned from his mistakes and didn’t repeat them.”

For Kuehl, who served with Hertzberg in the congregation, the coalition’s letter was consistent with what she had “experienced for years.”

“Bob’s bear hugs all over his body were a form of bullying,” Kuehl claims. “You felt like it was something you couldn’t avoid, especially for the young members of the congregation who didn’t know how to say ‘no.'”

Horvath released a statement condemning the unwanted hugs and said her choice would mean “real changes”.

She would be the lone millennial and the only tenant on the board if she wins the race. “I’m still paying off my student loans, and I have first-hand knowledge of affordability issues, rent stabilization, and fighting for money,” Horvath said. “I have these lived experiences that so many others of my generation have, and they will guide me.”

Horvath’s most tested move as a politician came in June, when she voted to trim the position of a deputy sheriff and hire 30 unarmed safety envoys. The measure passed by a 3-2 vote but was criticized by many residents as a first step in defunding the police force.

The West Hollywood vote came as long-standing tensions between Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva and the Board of Supervisors escalated dramatically.

Villanueva raided Kuehl’s home in September as part of a highly controversial investigation. Two years ago, Kuehl called for Villanueva’s resignation, and this election has an amendment on the ballot that would authorize the board to remove an elected sheriff.

Horvath called Villanueva at the UCLA candidate forum and said she would “not support the sheriff.” And although Hertzberg called the search of Kuehl’s home by armed deputies “terrible,” he did not take a formal stand against Villanueva because he saw “no value in sticking your finger in someone’s eye when you have to get up and work with them.” , he said.

Horvath views her denunciation of Villanueva – who is running for re-election – as the kind of “leadership it takes to lead the district.” But Hertzberg, the self-confessed arbitrator, said Horvath’s move showed her “my-way-or-the-highway” attitude.

Current West Hollywood Mayor Lauren Meister has endorsed Hertzberg, praising his stance on public safety and “his maturity” and “years of experience.”

But Kuehl, who supported Horvath early on, said a “huge asset” of the younger contestant is her ability to listen. “She doesn’t walk into a room thinking she has all the answers,” Kuehl said.

When it comes to homelessness, Horvath and Hertzberg appear to be split over homeless rights and sidewalk camp restrictions.

Hertzberg described himself as a “strong supporter” of the Los Angeles city ordinance banning obstruction by tents and prohibiting sleeping on public walkways near schools and similar amenities. He linked his enforcement to public safety.

Although Horvath did not comment on the ban, she said the law does not provide assistance to the homeless. Instead, she chose to support recent state legislation (SB 679), which will create a county agency to create and maintain affordable housing and offer help to struggling renters.

Hertzberg has his own institutional solution in mind. He envisions a pilot program that would combine the county’s 88 cities under a huge operation, which he likened to the Metropolitan Transit Authority.

The polls for each camp predict a close outcome. Hertzberg’s poll, based on a poll of 800 likely voters in late August, gave him a 7 percentage point advantage, with 47% of voters undecided.

Team Horvath released a poll on Aug. 22, based on a survey of 538 District 3 residents, which found the pair ranked 23%. A majority of voters were undecided – meaning there’s still a lot to hammer on the pavement.

Times intern Katie Licari contributed to this report. LA County Supervisor’s race pits Hertzberg against Horvath

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