Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva – who describes himself as “a proud Democrat” – has endorsed a Republican running to become California’s Attorney General, the top law enforcement officer in the nation’s most populous state.
Villanueva appeared at a press conference on Thursday morning to show his support for Nathan Hochman, a moderate Republican who was appointed to serve as Assistant U.S. Attorney General in 2008 by then-President George W. Bush.
Hochman is running against incumbent Rob Bonta, a progressive Democrat closely aligned with the criminal justice reform movement.
“I’m a supporter of Nathan’s because it’s time we get serious about reducing crime, ending homelessness, and holding those in power accountable when they abuse that power or engage in corruption,” said Villanueva. “I want a partner at the state attorney general’s office … that will actually hold criminals accountable. We also need smart and intelligent leaders who can help law enforcement across the state and target and arrest the most notorious criminals, get guns off the streets, and investigate major crime sprees and political corruption.”
Bonta’s office is currently reviewing several investigations conducted by Villanueva’s department. An L.A. County official claimed in a letter to Bonta that the sheriff had “used these investigations to discourage legitimate oversight of himself and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and to retaliate against any public official who criticizes him or the Sheriff’s Department.”
Many California insiders expect the AG race to be a referendum on so-called “reform-minded” prosecutors in the state, notably L.A. County District Attorney George Gascón and San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin. Hochman claims AG Bonta, Gascón, and Boudin have “formed an alliance,” describing the trio as “The Let ‘Em Go Guys,” referencing their progressive policies he says have “emboldened criminals and hurt victims.” Law enforcement groups have criticized them for being “soft on crime” and advocating for strict oversight of police officers.
LET ‘EM GO GUY AG Bonta and his fellow LET ‘EM GO GUYS DAs Gascon and Boudin have formed an alliance that has emboldened criminals and hurt victims. We need to let them go and bring in someone who will do the job #NathanHochmanforAG pic.twitter.com/VIa1RRT5O3
— Nathan Hochman (@NathanHochmanAG) March 6, 2022
“Rob Bonta is a supporter of George Gascón and Chesa Boudin, and their philosophies in their district are, ‘Don’t put people in jail who’ve committed violent and serious offenses for the full extent of the law,’” Hochman told the San Francisco Chronicle last year.
Proud to support @GeorgeGascon for Los Angeles County District Attorney! He is a powerful and courageous reformer who will infuse our criminal justice system with more compassion, humanity, and safety! pic.twitter.com/D8mTmC2EqS
— Rob Bonta (@RobBonta) February 27, 2020
During Thursday’s press conference, Hochman committed to Sheriff Villanueva to be a staunch ally of law enforcement if elected California’s top cop.
“I’m not going to defund the police,” vowed Hochman. “I will provide more funds to the police so that they can do a better job, and I will treat them as partners in the solutions, rather than as enemies and part of the problem.”
Bonta became the first Filipino American to serve as California’s attorney general last year after being appointed by Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom to fill a vacancy left by Xavier Becerra, who had resigned to join President Joe Biden’s cabinet as Health and Human Services secretary.
The Mercury News reported that Bonta had been “a favorite of law enforcement groups,” but he told the outlet that he would stop accepting contributions from police and prison guard unions in his new role. As a member of the state Assembly, Bonta advocated to end cash bail and abolish the death penalty.
On Thursday, Hochman lashed out at Bonta, pointing out that he had “never been a member of law enforcement” before his appointment and was selected by Newsom “without any qualifications to bring safety or security to Californians.”
“I commit to you, as California’s next attorney general, that I will do my job. I will enforce the laws of California and bring safety and security back to this state,” said Hochman during Thursday’s press conference. “People are fed up, they’re frustrated, they’re looking for fighters, and I will be that fighter.”
The primary election is set for June 7, with the general election slated for November 8. Sacramento County D.A. Anne Marie Schubert, a former Republican who is now an independent, has also entered the race, along with Republican Eric Early, an attorney who got trounced when running against Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) in 2020.