Barger Nears Finish Line in Campaign

At 2,807 square miles and 1.95 million people, the 5th Supervisorial District in Los Angeles County presents an enormous challenge for the candidate seeking to represent it.
San Marino’s Kathryn Barger has found out. Since her campaign for the post began in earnest in June of last year, she has backed out of her Lorain Road driveway each morning and systematically put 30,000 miles on her car, crisscrossing the district and discussing issues with as many constituents as possible.
“It really is a ground campaign, because the district is so large,” she said last week, taking a break in a Huntington Drive coffee bar. “People want to know who you are and meet you. If you’re not willing to go out and meet people in the district, you’re in the wrong line of work.
“It’s important to identify yourself to them. I think my experience, the depth of knowledge I have and the endorsements I’ve been able to receive have definitely helped me tremendously.”
Mike Antonovich has been the supervisor in the 5th District for the past 36 years, representing a region that sprawls from La Verne to the Grapevine to the Antelope Valley. He has been forced out by term limits — moving on to a race with former Assemblyman Anthony Portantino for the state Senate’s 25th District, which encompasses San Marino.
Barger, who has worked on Antonovich’s staff for 28 years, the last 15 as his chief deputy, seeks to succeed him in the Nov. 8 General Election. She will be opposed by Altadena start-up entrepreneur Darrell Park.
“No one can ever say this [election] is totally toward one person or the other,” Park said last week. “I think things stand really well in our favor right now.”
Barger’s pedigree and Antonovich’s endorsement helped her storm through the primary election in June. In a crowded field, she polled 105,520 votes, nearly double that of Park, who had 55,185.
Four other candidates were closely bunched behind Park, and Barger has since won the endorsement of each of them: state Sen. Bob Huff, Glendale Mayor Ara Najarian, L.A. City Councilman Mitchell Englander and prosecutor Elan Carr.
After the primary, Barger said that in so crowded a race it’s difficult to carve out who you are, and that it would be easier to make those distinctions in the two-person General Election.
That has occurred with some political pyrotechnics. The supervisor’s seat is nonpartisan, but Park submitted a ballot statement highlighting his Democratic Party standing and asserting that Barger supports presidential candidate Donald Trump “and his radical agenda.” Barger challenged it in Superior Court, and a judge struck down the language early last month, before the voter guide could be printed.
The incident compelled Barger, a moderate Republican, to bring party politics into the race. She remarked that she had not voted for Trump in the June primary and would not vote for him in November, and also noted that she has many more endorsements from Democrats than does Park.
Indeed, her support does represent a broad swath of the political spectrum, from 3rd District Supervisor Sheila Kuehl and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti on one end to Antonovich and Huff on the other. The Los Angeles Times, rarely an advocate of a conservative cause or candidate, endorsed Barger, characterizing her as “a thoughtful and experienced policymaker” while declaring that Park is “unprepared and unsuited for the job.”
Park counters that he would provide a welcome contrast to Antonovich’s longstanding governance in the 5th District, a former conservative stronghold that is now registered 57.7% Democrat.
In canvassing constituents on the campaign trail, Park said, “I think the most important piece of information is that people know their money hasn’t been spent well. The amount of taxes to live in Los Angeles County is a huge amount of money. But you’re paying First World taxes and you’re getting Third World benefit. The frustration is very substantial.”
In speeches and in occasional candidate forums, Barger and Park have discussed some of the pressing issues facing the county: homelessness, treatment and care of the mentally ill, and the foster care and juvenile justice systems.
Park, who worked in the White House Office of Management and Budget for 10 years, speaks of the importance of “spending money really thoughtfully up front” rather than simply throwing money at a systemic problem. “We’re spending too much money after the fact right now,” he added.
Barger, who has specialized in health issues as Antonovich’s chief deputy, speaks of the complexity of the solutions required for the county’s troubles. “Mental health is our greatest challenge, and it’s not just about the money,” she said.
Current mental health laws create a revolving door of 72-hour hospital holds for mentally ill people who are picked up by the Sheriff’s Department for dangerous behavior, Barger continued, whereas the recent creation of mental health urgent care centers can better triage the mentally ill and connect them with treatment services in the community. She’s a big proponent of relying on nonprofit and faith-based organizations to complement county services.
Dr. Richard Sun, San Marino’s vice mayor, cited Barger’s thorough experience in dealing with complicated problems, adding that “she doesn’t need to be trained to be supervisor.” He commended her accessibility to local government officials.
Sun, who has endorsed her, said, “She possesses some of the basic public service values: trustworthiness, fairness, responsibility, respect, compassion and loyalty,” and added, “I believe she can work as a consensus-builder.”
Interesting choice of terms. Barger used the same one to describe Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who got her vote in the June presidential primary.
“The more I listen to the news, the more I am convinced that the way I’m running my campaign is what I would expect from the top of the ticket,” she said.
Kasich has achieved progress on difficult issues in Ohio, Barger added, because of a willingness to work with people of opposing views, rather than entrenching along party lines.
“It’s something this country needs more than ever right now,” she said. “There’s no ‘R’ or ‘D’ next to our names [in the supervisorial race]. I would hope that voters would look at who’s supporting me; that will speak volumes as to how I operate.
“No matter what side of the aisle I come from, I will always do what’s best for the district.”

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