Former Long Beach Police Chief Robert Luna and Sheriff Alex Villanueva exchanged criticism in a heated debate outside the office of the top Los Angeles County cop.
The two vied for the support of voters trying to take each other down, with Villaneuva calling Luna a “puppet” for the county’s board of trustees.
“When the Board of Trustees recruits eight candidates to run against me, they did it for one reason only,” Villanueva said. “They want a doll and we have the person here as that doll.”
Luna has repeatedly criticized the sheriff for his confrontational style, claiming that he refuses to interact with community leaders, especially the Board of Supervisors.
“This is something the sheriff has to learn. When you work with people it doesn’t mean you’re a puppet,” Luna said. “That means you’re working with people at the end of the day to collaborate. The first thing I would do as a sheriff is stop this us versus them culture and mentality.”
Villanueva chided Luna’s claim, referring specifically to the hiring freeze placed on the Sheriff’s Department.
‘If they put a hiring freeze on the department, what am I going to do? Greeting with open arms?’ he said. “Of course I’m going to object to that.”
The debate was hosted by TSWT 11, Los Angeles Times, Univision and KPCC. The two debated a variety of topics, including how best to tackle rising crime and homelessness.
The debate also centered on the controversial corruption investigation into Supervisor Sheila Kuehl and the search of her home last week. The candidates were asked whether the state attorney general had intervened and deprived Villanueva of the case after questions were raised about conflicts of interest.
“This investigation began in September 2019,” Villanueva said. “We have consulted with the Attorney General and that is my practice in any investigation that may be complicated or politically sensitive.”
Luna responded by saying that the sheriff had no business investigating Kuehl.
“It was of no use to the sheriff to investigate this from the start,” he said. “You cannot examine your political opponents or enemies.”
The election is on November 8. The most recent poll had Luna slightly ahead of Villanueva, but many voters are undecided.