One of the most anticipated races for Los Angeles County sheriff is nearing the Nov. 4 finish line. Jim McDonnell, chief of the Long Beach Police Department, is vying against Paul Tanaka, mayor of Gardena and a former undersheriff, in the contest to replace Lee Baca at one of the nation’s largest—and of late most controversial—law enforcement agencies.

The contest for the 36th assembly district between democratic incumbent Steve Fox and challenger Palmdale City Councilman Tom Lackey, and the race for the 25th congressional district seat pitting state Sen. Steve Knight (21st District) against former state Sen. Tony Strickland is also on tap on Nov. 4. Four candidates are also competing for a position on the board of directors of the Antelope Valley Health Care District.

McDonnell has been the front runner for the sheriff’s job since announcing his candidacy last spring. Despite his strong showing in the June primary (50 percent of the vote) against a large field of candidates, he was forced into next Tuesday’s runoff against Tanaka. Both men are vying to replace Baca, who declined to run for a fifth term as the department became embroiled in scandal, specifically a federal investigation which led to charges and convictions regarding deputy abuse of inmates at the Twin Towers jail facility in downtown Los Angeles, as well as reported cases of deputy misconduct and excessive force against African Americans and Latinos in Palmdale and in Lancaster.

McDonnell has received endorsements from some of the biggest political names in Los Angeles County, among them are Supervisor Mike Antonovich (5th District), District Attorney Jackie Lacey and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. He also gets the nod of approval from Santa Clarita City Councilman Bob Kellar, the Antelope Valley Press and the Santa Clarita Daily Signal.

Reform within the department has become the mantra of both candidates. McDonnell during his tenure with the Los Angeles Police Department was considered a major force in transforming the department in the wake of its Rampart corruption scandal in the late 1990s. He also served on the Citizen’s Commission on Jail Violence that issued a 200-page report detailing more than 60 recommendations for the sheriff’s department and its jail division. He said he is running to reinstate public trust in the beleaguered department, noting that a failure of leadership has led directly to the many controversies which have grabbed national headlines.

“Such failures at the top have resulted in misplaced priorities,” McDonnell said. “There has been lax oversight, documented reports of brutality in jails, and most recently, the indictment of (more than) 20 deputies for felony crimes. Our communities deserve better.”

McDonnell said it is time for the sheriff’s department to “move forward” and to create a force that can once again be a “model” for the nation. “That’s my first priority,” he said.

Tanaka, who served 33 years with the Los Angeles Sheriff Department (LASD), said he entered the sheriff’s race to “… give the 18,000 civilian and sworn employees a leader they can trust,” while reaffirming confidence and pride among the public that it can trust the department to keep them safe while abiding by the “highest possible” standards of character and professionalism.

Tanaka was the subject, last year, of a federal grand jury investigation into excessive force and corruption in county jails. He knows he’ll have an uphill battle on Tuesday evening. “I know what people are saying,” Tanaka said. “I was told I couldn’t unseat an incumbent mayor. I did. I have a passion to provide a safer community for Los Angeles County. If elected, I’ll review the command staff, because there are too many people in high places who aren’t doing their jobs. I’ll select the right people … there’ll be no favoritism.”

Hiring more minorities, women and persons from the LBGT community will also be among Tanaka’s top priorities. “Today the department looks more like it did in the 1960s. They want to bring back more White guys … like it was 50 years ago. I’ll change that culture,” he said. He may also raise the hiring age from 19 or 20 years to 24 or 25 years. “An older age adds more maturity,” Tanaka said.

Local candidates in important races

Although the California legislature has been in democratic hands for much of the past decade, the California Republican Party is taking a more aggressive posture this year in trying to forge a new beginning for conservative policies. Palmdale’s Tom Lackey believes he has an excellent chance to unseat democrat Steve Fox in the 36th Assembly District.

“I believe that I’m the vehicle that represents that whole movement of trying to have a government that’s a little friendlier to business,” said Lackey, who was elected to the Palmdale City Council in 2005 and once served on the Palmdale school board. A former member of the California Highway Patrol (28 years), Lackey advocates for lower taxes, public safety, educational improvements and job growth via private sector economic development. If the 36th Assembly District seat is returned to republicans, the win may help to dilute the power of democrats in Sacramento.

Fox reminds voters that his office has hired an almost equal number of republicans as democrats. “My head senior field representative is a hard-core republican. We reflect this district,” Fox said. A former republican, Fox changed parties years ago in a move that critics said was calculated to capitalize on the district’s sharp move to the left. Registered democrats in the 36th Assembly District now outnumber republicans by almost 7 percent.

“I don’t represent some special interest, Fox told KQED news this month. “A lot of my goals have been district oriented. And I didn’t leave the GOP … the GOP left me.” Fox says he is not the “typical assemblyman,” instead opting to forgo party politics and ideological labels. “I ran for office to create jobs, expand educational opportunities, take care of our veterans and to keep our communities safe,” he said. “I am ready to get more done.”

Lackey believes the right political climate can lead business back to California. He was among a group of local policy makers that supported a letter sent this month from the Antelope Valley Air Quality Management District to Gov. Jerry Brown asking him to intervene to help keep Kinkisharyo International from leaving Palmdale and building its permanent manufacturing facility for light rail cars outside of California. Lackey said the democrats have failed to respond to public calls for less regulations and lower taxes.

“I want to make businesses want to take a look at California, not leave California,” he said. “Our current leadership has failed and we need a representative who will protect our hard working families and stand up for our business owners. We don’t need just another vote for the status quo in Sacramento.”

State Sen. Steve Knight (21st Congressional District) and former state senator Tony Strickland will compete to replace retiring Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, in the 25th Congressional District. The two republicans offer a conservative message to potential voters and the winner will undoubtedly be able to work closely with House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (23rd District). The election marks an opportunity for the GOP to make further gains on its 17-seat House majority.

“Running against another republican is always a question of how you distinguish yourself,” said Knight, son of former state senator Pete Knight. He has criticized Strickland of late for being a “carpetbagger” (moving into a district specifically to run for office). [“Strickland] seems to be more worried about me telling voters what he would do, if elected,” Knight said.

Strickland insists that he has been a fighter for both the 25th District and conservative values in Washington.

“In Congress, I plan to work for the constituents of the 25th District by leading the fight to reign in spending, eliminate government red tape to reduce the size of government, increase individual liberty and to improve the quality of life for all Americans,” Strickland said.

The contest between Strickland and Knight may divide the republican vote; each candidate will remain on the campaign trail this weekend to try to win over potential democratic and independent voters. Democrats and republicans each represent about 37 percent of the 25th District electorate (about 74 percent), with independents and others comprising the remaining 26 percent.

McCarthy is hoping on Tuesday to retain his position of House Majority Leader (he was elected to the leadership post three months ago). The Kern County representative said this week that expected republican gains on Tuesday night will amount to little if the party cannot govern over the next two years. A growing rift between so-called “establishment republicans” and those of the Tea Party led McCarthy to say in Hauppauge, N.Y., “I do know this. If we don’t capture the House stronger, and the Senate, and prove we could govern, there won’t be a republican president in 2016.”

One of McCarthy’s chief goals is to rework the federal bureaucracy. He said that voters are “frustrated” with President Barack Obama’s handling of Ebola, the healthcare law, the IRS and Secret Service scandals. McCarthy’s ability to form cordial, working relationships within both parties has gained him popularity on Capitol Hill.

“If you notice, since I became leader, I put more buy-in for people,” McCarthy said. “Having been [majority] whip before leader makes me a better leader.”

Local health and water agencies

Four candidates are competing to join the board of directors of the Antelope Valley Health Care District. These include the incumbent Don V. Parazo; Roe Leer, an educator and investor; Michael Patric Rives, a retired healthcare administrator, and Mukund Shah, an oncologist (cancer physician).

The Antelope Valley Health Care District operates out of Antelope Valley Hospital. Among its services are blood donation, cardiology, critical care, emergency, mental health, women and children’s care trauma services. One year ago, the City of Hope and Antelope Valley Hospital opened a full-service center in Lancaster that provides a complete range of cancer services, and also has facilities for diagnostic and treatment procedures.

Candidates Shelly Sorsabal and Charlie O’Laughlin will compete for the Division 1 seat for the Antelope Valley-East Kern Water Agency. This organization is the third largest state water project contractor. It encompasses 2,300 square miles in the Mojave Desert (northeast Los Angeles County) and includes more than 20 municipalities as well as Edwards Air Force Base, Palmdale Air Force Base (Plant 42) and the U.S. Borax Co. Both candidates cite drought relief, increased water supplies, and better financial oversight as reasons why they should be elected.

Ballot measures

This election features a limited number of statewide propositions. Two of the most publicized have been Propositions 1 and 2. Prop. 1 is in response to the ongoing drought and would authorize $7.2 billion in general obligation bonds for various water supply infrastructure projects. Proposition 2 would amend the state constitution to change how Sacramento pays down its current and future budget deficits and would also place tax revenue in reserve to serve as a “rainy day” fund.

Proposition 45 would allow the state insurance commissioner to reject health insurance price changes. Proposition 46 would increase the cap on medical damages, require drug/alcohol tests for doctors, and mandates that physicians check a prescription drug database before prescribing certain drugs or medications.

Proposition 48 would ratify two gaming compacts and would exempt the execution of these contracts and intergovernmental agreements from the California Environmental Quality Act.

Finally, Proposition P, if passed, would continue a revenue stream for building and maintaining the 175 Los Angeles County parks at a rate of $54 million each year over the next three decades.

State office

Governor: Democrat Jerry Brown will likely win an unprecedented fourth term as he campaigns against Neel Kashkari, an investment banker and a former assistant secretary of the U.S. Treasury.

Lt. Governor: Incumbent Gavin Newsom will take on fellow democrat Ron Nehring, a political strategist.

Attorney General: Incumbent Kamala Harris seeks re-election against Ron Gold, a former California deputy attorney general.

Controller: Ashley Swearengin, mayor of Fresno, will compete against Betty Yee, a member of the Board of Equalization representing the first district in Northern California.

Insurance Commissioner: Republican State Sen. Ted Gaines will vie against incumbent democrat Dave Jones, a former member of the state assembly.

Secretary of State: State Senator Alex Padilla (D) will challenge Pete Peterson, a professor of public policy at Pepperdine University for a seat currently held by termed-out Debra Bowen.

Superintendent of Public Instruction: Incumbent Tom Torlakson will face off against Marshall Tuck, former CEO of the Partnership for Los Angeles Schools.

Treasurer: State Controller democrat John Chiang will compete against Greg Conlon, a past president the California Public Utilities Commission.