Community, Diversity, Sustainability and other Overused Words

Sheila Kuehl Plans to Take On Transportation as County Supervisor

Sheila Kuehl said the bid for the Third District seat on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors was the toughest race in a political career that's included several runs for state legislative seats dating back to the '90s.

The difference here, she said, was she actually had to run twice.

"I had to do a primary and then a general," she said. "When I ran before, we didn't have 'top two' and so when I won the primary in 1992 through 2004, I was in. I didn't have a general election."

Unofficial results Wednesday showed Kuehl leading Bobby Shriver 52.78 percent to 47.22 percent. Provisional and some vote-by-mail ballots remain uncounted and official counts won't be released until December.

But Shriver conceded Wednesday morning and issued a statement that telegraphed support for the rival he'd battled with since January and in a campaign that grew heated in the past few months.

"We had a good conversation about our challenging and spirited campaign," Shriver said. "After 25 debates, I know Sheila will bring strength and conviction to her service on the Board of Supervisors."

The race was tight throughout the evening on Tuesday, and some observers were surprised Kuehl eventually opened up a bigger lead on Shriver.

Raphael Sonenshein, director of the Pat Brown Institute of Public Affairs at Cal State Los Angeles, said Kuehl benefited from low turnout.

"The base really carried a number of candidates, including (Tom) Torlakson for state superintendent and Ted Lieu for Congress," Sonenshein said. "She has a strong connection to the party base."

Kuehl, 73, will replace Zev Yaroslavsky, who was often viewed as the swing vote on the Board of Supervisors. Kuehl, along with former Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, who is replacing Gloria Molina, give the board relatively fresh faces. Molina, Yaroslavsky and current members Michael Antonovich and Don Knabe were all elected in the '80s and '90s.

"It will certainly be more of a board closer to labor than it's ever been," Sonenshein said.

But Kuehl, who got much of her backing from organized labor, said union workers should be seen as partners solving budget issues and that they've been good partners through lean times.

"I've never been supported by labor before until this election, and yet I've always been friendly of working men and women," she said. "What labor really wants and what they hope for this election is a person who already knows, listens and respects their ability and will work with them to find a mutual answer with the budget."

She was in a labor union herself as a teen star on television in the 1960s as a member of the Screen Actors Guild.

The Third District, which covers more than 420 miles and stretches from the West Side and Santa Monica up through the San Fernando Valley, is beset by transportation challenges, and Kuehl said it will be one of her early priorities when she takes her place on the board Dec. 2.

Much of her campaign centered on her experience and she often criticized Shriver for not being ready to take on the job - a jab at his tenure as a part-time member of the Santa Monica City Council.

But Sonenshein said that despite Shriver's loss, he thinks he's set himself up for future political office runs.

"He left himself in a good position. He met new people who took him beyond his base in Santa Monica," Sonenshein said. "He really gained a lot of new supporters he didn't have in the primary and he was running really well toward the end."


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