Republicans are struggling to win elections in LA County. Can Barger get a three-peat?

(Photo illustration by Jim Cooke/Los Angeles Times; photos via Getty Images)

Republicans are struggling to win elections in LA County. Can Barger get a three-peat?

LA Politics, California Politics, 2024 Elections

Jaclyn Cosgrove

March 1, 2024

As she seeks a third and final term as Los Angeles County supervisor, Kathryn Barger and her supporters are touting her support from labor unions, the Sierra Club and Planned Parenthood’s local lobbying arm, her concerns about climate change and her willingness to get up. to the NRA and former President Trump.

That would be standard campaign fare for a Democrat, but Barger is a lifelong Republican, even as she laments the takeover of her party by “a radical side.”

Voter’s guide to the 2024 California primaries

Winning elections in heavily Democratic Los Angeles County is difficult at best for most Republicans, but Barger has won twice, boosted by generally moderate positions and a willingness to work with the four Democrats she faces in the House. Supervisory Board is in place, three of whom have given their support. here.

The challenge has grown slightly since 2021 redistricting made the sprawling 5th District slightly less conservative. Some neighborhoods in the northwest San Fernando Valley were removed, while more liberal neighborhoods were added in LA.

So as Barger faces four opponents, led by Assemblymember Chris Holden (D-Pasadena), she and her supporters have emphasized her support for Planned Parenthood and her moderate positions on issues that might appeal to Democratic or independent voters.

Holden, meanwhile, has claimed in campaign materials that Barger “supports Donald Trump’s MAGA agenda,” which she denies, and has pointed to choices Barger has made that he says underscore her Republican values.

“His best bet is to actually tag her as


Trump Republican or a partisan Republican even though it’s not accurate in terms of her voting record she often votes with the other Democrats that are on the board but it’s a really good way to actually attack her because she’s so well known is districtwide,” said Christian Grose, academic director of the USC Schwarzenegger Institute.

Supervisor races are nonpartisan, meaning candidates’ political parties are not listed on ballots. Instead, voters only see the


job titles. The top two finishers will get a runoff in November if no one receives more than 50% of the primary vote.

Barger, a county employee since the late 1980s, and Holden, who has held public office for about 35 years, are the


well-known candidates in the race.

If Barger wins, it would be her last term due to term limits.

The other three are members of the Burbank City Council Konstantine Anthony, citizen technologist and businessman Marlon Marroquin, and lawyer and nonprofit leader Perry Goldberg, who criticizes Barger for trying to play to both sides.

Of the 5th District’s 1.2 million registered voters, 46% are Democrats, up from 43% before the 2021 redistricting


according to county election data. About 25% are Republicans, up from about 26%, and about 23% have no party preference, down from about 26%.

“There are no dramatic changes, although I do think about it [43%] up to 46% [Democrats]“In a close election, that’s the margin, even if it’s not a huge change,” said Grose, a professor of political science and public policy at USC.

In most races in LA County, moderate Democrats are being challenged by more liberal members of their own party, said Raphael Sonenshein, a longtime scholar of California politics. The 5th District offers a rare opportunity for a moderate Republican like Barger to be successful.

“But the candidate who would be identified as more Republican really has to sidestep the downside of being a Republican in California if the party is in people’s minds,” said Sonenshein, executive director of the John Randolph Haynes and Dora Haynes Foundation, which finances the social sciences. research.

The focus on Planned Parenthood’s support could help Barger court Democrats and other left-leaning voters, especially female and LGBTQ+ voters, experts say. “Her opponents sense that her voters are leaning [to lean] more left, and they want to paint Barger as a Trump enthusiast based on those mailers, and one clear way for Barger to dispel doubts about her loyalty to Trump is to focus on a core problem for Democrats, especially for Democratic Women: Her Support for Reproductive Rights,” said Jennifer M. Piscopo, associate professor of politics at Occidental College.

In his mailers, Holden said he had a “100% legislative score” from Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California, and included images of him speaking to supporters in pink Planned Parenthood T-shirts.

Barger’s support of Planned Parenthood Advocacy Project Los Angeles County came because of her long history of working with the broader organization, said Sue Dunlap, chair of the project board.

Since his election, Barger has ensured that if protesters outside a clinic block patient access, Dunlap, who also runs Planned Parenthood Los Angeles, or her staff can easily reach top Sheriff’s Department officials to help protect their staff and patients , Dunlap said.

“It’s not so much about not supporting Chris Holden… it’s not about him,” Dunlap said. “It is about [Barger] and with whom we have been working for more than 15 years. …We trust her and know she will answer the phone.”

For his part, Holden is endorsed by the LA County Democratic Party, several local and state leaders, including U.S. Rep. Adam


Schiff (D-Burbank), and several unions, including SEIU Local 2015, which represents long-term care workers, and three other SEIU unions.

During the campaign, Holden has tried to insert Barger into the larger Trump orbit.

Barger raised more than

$448,000 $388,000

from donors to former President Trump, Holden said

mailers for campaign materials

and an interview, citing county fundraising data. Barger said Holden also has Trump donors, which he denies.

Holden said Barger supported a U.S. Senate candidate from Pennsylvania who claimed the 2020 election was stolen from Trump. Barger said this candidate, who was not endorsed by Trump, was a personal friend who was the first person to donate to her campaign in 2016


“They’re values, okay? You’re my girlfriend, but my girlfriend has some crazy ideas here, and what will that look like if I support her?’ Holden said. ‘Who will know that I support my friend? All they will know is that I supported this person who is an election denier.”

Holden criticized Barger for abstaining in 2018 from voting on a recommendation that county lobbyists in Washington, D.C., push for a semi-automatic weapons ban.

Barger said she supports gun control, including a ban on .50-caliber handguns and other measures the board passed last year and “because I disagree with a particular motion that has been made, it does not reflect the fact that I I’m not.” pro-gun control because I am,” adding that the US continues to add gun control laws without enforcing laws already on the books.

Holden said Barger has taken conservative positions on immigration, citing Barger’s comments at a Republican women’s luncheon in 2017 that America needed Trump’s approach to immigration. “I hope tough love does it, because playing nice in the sandbox clearly didn’t accomplish anything,” Barger said in a Santa Clarita Valley Signal story.

Barger said her comment was taken out of context and that the “tough love” she was talking about was the energy regulators should focus on Congress as both Democrats and Republicans use the broken immigration system as a “political pawn.” and that is harming LA County residents.

Holden said if he had been a moderate Republican, he would have changed his registration to independent.

“I’ve seen moderate Republicans move in that direction. That was their decision. That’s their decision. She has every right to have some kind of country where she is, and that’s her choice,” Holden said.

Barger said she has considered registering as an independent, but

will not

on this point

just now

because ‘politically it is the right thing to do’.

There are those in the party who call her a RINO Republican in name only and it’s a shame the Republican Party has been overtaken by “a radical side,” she said.

Barger said she has always supported LGBTQ+ rights and has focused her attention on the county’s priorities of addressing homelessness by funding shelters, housing and new mental health facilities in the 5th District.

“I’m joking, but I don’t think it’s a joke if I were sitting in an office in Sacramento or in Washington DC, I would be in ‘time out’ every day” because of her moderate views and refusal to be alone to vote as directed by the party, Barger said. “I think you have to think for yourself and do what’s right for your constituency.”

For all their sparring, Barger and Holden have at least one thing in common: They were both influenced by their politician fathers.

Holden’s father, Nate Holden, is a former Democratic state senator and member of the LA City Council.

The younger Holden said he became a registered Democrat at age 18. His first job out of college was at a juvenile detention center in East LA, where he saw young people close to his age suffering, and he wanted to help.

“It was based on the values ​​I grew up with, seeing how and who my father fought for in public office, and it just made sense to me,” Holden said. He said these values ​​led him to open a health clinic in Pasadena for uninsured and underinsured people, and to fight for better public transportation options to Pasadena through the creation and expansion of the Gold Line.

Barger’s father,


D. Barger was appointed Commissioner of State Insurance by the then government in 1968. Ronald Reagan.

Barger said she registered as a Republican at age 18 because



she had

for her father, adding that she


never been active in the party and never sought his approval.

Barger said that as a child she knew Democratic political giant Jesse M. Unruh as a family friend, but had no idea he was a Democrat.

“My dad was so impartial, and that’s where I got it from,” Barger said. “It’s about the problems in front of you and not about the party.”


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