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Election 2014: Kuehl wins LA Supervisors Race (and other local election results)

Updated results for local races »

Retired state legislator Sheila Kuehl won a seat on the powerful five-member Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Tuesday, defeating Bobby Shriver, the former Santa Monica City Councilman - and well-heeled nephew of President John F. Kennedy - to replace termed out Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, who held the seat since 1994.

“It’s the biggest job I'll ever have, and it’s a career capper for me,” Kuehl said from her campaign victory party at The Victorian in Santa Monica. “Being one of 80 0r one of 40 is very different than being one of five running something the size of Ohio. It’s a much tougher job.”

Kuehl, 73, will be the first openly gay member of the county board, which controls a $26 billion budget. Final ballots were still being counted into the morning. She won 53 percent of the vote.

Kuehl had campaigned on her experience as a member of the state Legislature. She argued it better prepared her to sit on the county board, which must implement a slew of state laws on health care, welfare and a range of other issues. She said Shriver was ill-prepared for the job.

She convinced Jackie Kurtzman, of Westwood.

"I voted for Kuehl," Kurtzman said Tuesday. "I just felt that she was more experienced – and I felt that she was genuine."

Shriver, 60, left a gathering of his supporters at The Abby in West Hollywood before Midnight, saying he'd see how the race turned out in the morning.  

Before turning in, he said the effect of term limits on the Board of Supervisors can go a long way toward educating residents as to the importance of the board, which is in charge of social services and the safety net.

“The idea that there’s a competitive race and there are two opposing views of what should be done and some people are here and some people are there," he said. 

In other local races:

  • Sheriff: Long Beach Police Chief Jim McDonnell easily defeated former undersheriff Paul Tanaka to win L.A. Sheriff. McDonnell had taken 75 percent of the vote. Tanaka, who is the subject of an FBI investigation into the troubled Sheriff’s Department, effectively stopped campaigning after the primary election this summer. McDonnell, who previously spent 29 years with the LAPD, had won the endorsement of every major political leader in the region.
  • Measure P: A Los Angeles parcel tax intended to fund parks and other neighborhood improvements across Los Angeles County fell shy of the 2/3 majority it needed to win. Only 62 percent of voters had said "yes". The measure would have created an annual $23 per parcel that could have generated $54 million a year for parks, recreation and open space projects.
  • Assessor: West Hollywood City Councilman Jeffrey Prang won the seat by less than 10,000 votes. He was competing against Los Angeles Deputy District Attorney John Morris.
  • Orange County Supervisors: Michelle Steel easily won election with 62 percent of the vote over Allan Mansoor; but the race was closer for Lisa Bartlett, who took 55 percent to defeat Robert Ming.
  • Santa Monica Airport: The Santa Monica City Council got a resounding vote of confidence Tuesday when it comes to control of the Santa Monica Airport.  Nearly 60 percent of voters in the coastal city supported Measure LC, which gives the council power to make major decisions about the airport — including shutting it down — but requires a public vote on any commercial development of airport land. Fifty-eight percent of voters rejected Measure D, which would have required any major decision on the airport to be put to a public vote. The council has also been battling for years with the Federal Aviation Administration, which has maintained that previous agreements obligate Santa Monica to operate the airport "in perpetuity." So far, federal courts have backed up the FAA.
  • Measure R: In Malibu, voters approved a measure backed by actor and director Rob Reiner to restrict chain store development. With 100 percent of precincts reporting Wednesday morning, the tally was 59 percent "yes" to 41 percent "no," according to county elections data. As the Hollywood Reporter notes, Reiner is a Brentwood resident with a house in Malibu, and he was opposed by L.A. Police Commission president Steve Soboroff. Measure R will require Malibu residents to vote on any development over 20,000 square feet.

What Kuehl's win means

Kuehl’s win in the Los Angeles supervisors race marks a victory for labor unions, which viewed her as more sympathetic to the county’s 85,000 unionized employees. A labor union SuperPAC raised more than $2 million to help elect her.

She’ll join Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and Supervisor-elect Hilda Solis, a former Secretary of Labor under President Obama, as part of what unions hope will be a labor friendly majority on the board.

“Control of the county board is huge for labor,” political scientist Jaime Regalado said.

But Kuehl bristled at any implication she would be a puppet for labor.

“I have always been a friend of labor - but not necessarily a yes man," she said Tuesday night.

Shriver was backed by big names, including: New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who gave $100,000, Entertainment mogul Haim Saban, who donated $50,000, and Architect Frank Gehry, who chipped in $25,000.

Kuehl may have been more familiar to voters in the Third District, which stretches from Santa Monica to Hollywood and includes the San Fernando Valley.

Shriver helped raised billions to fight AIDS and poverty in Africa but was less known for civic activism in Los Angeles. He is the older brother of Maria Shriver, the TV news correspondent and ex-wife of former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

"I’m really disappointed in Bobby Shriver. I’m really disappointed that he is not more like his parents," Westwood voter Peter Giannini said Tuesday Morning. "His record in Santa Monica is just abysmal, I think - really drives us into Sheila’s camp."

Kuehl had the backing of the L.A. County Democratic Party - and retiring Congressman Henry Waxman, one of the best-known Democrats in the region. He was at her campaign party Tuesday night.

Born in Tulsa, Ok., Kuehl grew up near the Coliseum.

On a whim, her parents purchased a series of acting classes for her to attend as a child. At age 8, in 1949, she landed a role in a radio comedy, and later played the smart and sassy teenager Zelda in “The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis.”

Kuehl graduated from UCLA and later Harvard Law School. She practiced family law and co-founded the California Women’s Law Center, which focuses on domestic abuse.

In 1994, Kuehl was elected to the state Assembly. In 2000, she was elected to the state Senate. She was a founding member of the California LGBT Caucus, a champion of single payer healthcare, and authored 171 laws including one establishing paid family leave and another setting nurse-patient staffing minimums at hospitals.

Measure P: $23 parcel tax goes down, despite 62 percent support

Though a parcel tax to pay for parks, waterways and beaches in Los Angeles County lost Tuesday¹s election, voters are likely to see a similar proposal on a future ballot, according to one supporter.

"It was the little proposition that could almost get there," said Tori Kjer with the Trust for Public Land. Sixty-two percent of voters approved it, but that fell just short of the two-thirds threshold for approval because it's a tax.

The measure would have established a $23 parcel tax on all commercial and residential properties in the county for the next 30 years, generating about $54 million annually. The money would have been used to acquire parklands and maintain existing recreation centers.

Measure P would have replaced an existing tax that was approved back in 1992. Under Proposition A, property owners were taxed at varying rates depending on their property value. That tax will expire in June 2015.

Once the old tax expires, there will be about $130 million left for parks funding. However, most of that money has already been allocated to projects, Kjer said.

Considering how much support Measure P garnered in the absence of a real campaign, Kjer said it's likely that a revised proposal could reappear in the future — but just what that proposal would be, and when it would be introduced, remain unclear.

Evelyn Larrubia

This story has been updated.