Barger Has Big Cushion; Opponent is Uncertain

Longtime San Marino resident Kathryn Barger last week stormed through the primary election in her bid to be the next supervisor in Los Angeles County’s 5th District, receiving nearly double the votes of her nearest competitor.
OK, that’s the obvious part. Much less certain is what will shake out among the runners-up in the next two weeks, and who her competitor will be in the general election on Nov. 8.
Barger, the longtime chief deputy to Supervisor Mike Antonovich in the 5th District, has 81,362 votes in the semi-official tally for the nonpartisan office, which carries a four-year term. That puts her well ahead of seven other candidates. The top two vote-getters will advance to the November run-off.
In the county registrar-recorder’s canvass of provisional and vote-by-mail ballots, through June 10, the runners-up remained far behind Barger, though closely bunched together. Only 280 votes separated Darrell Park (40,958), a start-up entrepreneur and educator, and Bob Huff (40,678), a Republican state senator serving San Dimas. They were trailed at a close distance by Glendale Mayor Ara Najarian (35,684), Los Angeles City Councilman Mitchell Englander (33,395) and prosecutor Elan Carr (30,710). Only 10,248 votes separate second place from sixth.
When the June 7 primary concluded, there were still 124,523 ballots yet to be counted in the 5th District, according to the registrar-recorder. These include provisional ballots, vote-by-mail ballots brought to polling places, and vote-by-mail ballots that were postmarked on election day or immediately after.
As a result, the 5th District race “is way too close to call with the number of ballots we have outstanding,” said Aaron Nevarez, spokesman for the registrar-recorder.
The outstanding ballots, he stressed, “are unprocessed numbers, raw counts.” Some of the mailed envelopes might not even have ballots in them. In the case of the provisionals, some might involve people who voted in the wrong precinct, registered as absentee but showed up at a polling place seeking to vote in person, or in some cases weren’t eligible to vote at all. Typically, Nevarez said, about 85% of provisional ballots wind up being counted.
The tally will have a major impact on determining Barger’s opponent in the fall.
Updates on the vote count will be provided periodically through the end of this month. State law requires that the county complete the canvass by July 7, but it is shooting for July 1, Nevarez said.
Barger’s success can be seen as resounding validation of Antonovich’s work over his 36 years as supervisor in the 5th District, which includes San Marino. (He is stepping down because of term limits enacted in 2002, and is pursuing the state Senate seat in the 25th District. In the primary, Antonovich achieved a run-off with former Assemblyman Anthony Portantino.)
“His endorsement means he thinks I am the right person,” Barger said of her boss last week, “but I have to show them.
“We have strived to have quality representation for the district. We have field offices throughout the region. It’s so diverse that one size does not fit all. We look at every issue and take every issue seriously and are working every day to make the district a better district.”
The issue she heard most about during her campaign, she said, was homelessness. “For many, it was from a compassionate area — ‘What are we doing? How can we help them?” she said. “It wasn’t necessarily, ‘We don’t want to see them on the street.’ People asked, ‘How are you going to work toward addressing the issue?’
“What I told people, ‘It’s not what I’m going to do, it’s what I am doing.’ Some of these people just want to be homeless. Some are in a positon of not knowing what’s wrong with being homeless — they’re mentally ill. We need to do more. One of the things the county is implementing is [use of] urgent care centers. Now, officers pick the people up and put them in a hospital, and they’re out in one day. We’re linking them up to urgent care centers, where they can be triaged or put in a hospital, or connected with organizations with links to helping the community.”
Park, an Atadena resident, also cited homelessness as a key issue in the wake of the election. Having worked for 10 years in the White House’s Office of Management and Budget, mostly during the Clinton administration, he said, “I learned early on that solving problems saves crazy money. We’re spending $40,000 per year on a homeless person. In Utah and Ottawa, Canada, they’ve saved millions of dollars getting people into housing. That allows them to have a safe place, doing the things they need to do to start rebuilding their lives. They found that they can get about 20% back to a semblance of normal life in about 60 days. The top 20% just needs that little bit of help.”
Barger says she welcomes the opportunity to delineate her differences with Park – or someone else, if the provisional count alters the current order. It’s challenging, she said, “when you’re running against seven people and having to define yourself and carve out who you are. When you’re running against one person, it’s easier to make those distinctions.”
Asked about having emerged so far in front of that crowded field, Barger continued, “You know when you’re growing up and your parents say, ‘If you study, the fruits of your labor will be realized?’ When you get that first ‘A,’ you know they’re right. I’ve been in the community, doing my job, and it’s been a long, grueling road, but it’s also been incredibly fulfilling, because I learned a lot and I also earned the respect of people in the community.
“When I saw the numbers, it told me that what I had been doing is the right thing to do. I think people respond to meeting you and talking about the issues. We don’t always have to agree. You’d be surprised how listening and giving an answer, and saying, ‘We need to look at that,’ is important. It’s not lip service, it’s responding and doing things.”

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