Four Queens: Election of Barger and Hahn Mark New Era for L.A. County Board of Supes

As expected, two heavily favored candidates earned open seats on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors in Tuesday’s election, a development that marks a continuing shift in the governing body’s dynamics and political orientation.

In the race to the fill the fifth district seat vacated by longtime Supervisor Michael Antonovich, Kathryn Barger earned 59 percent of the votes, easily outpacing clean-energy entrepreneur Darrell Park. Barger is a longtime aide to Antonovich, having served in his office for more than a quarter of a century.

In the fourth district, U.S. Congresswoman Janice Hahn garnered 56 percent of the vote in claiming victory over Steve Napolitano, a staffer with current Supervisor Don Knabe. Like Antonovich, Knabe is leaving office because of term limits.

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors controls an annual budget of nearly $30 billion and oversees the nation’s largest child-welfare and juvenile-justice systems and the country’s second largest public-health system.

Along with current Supervisors Hilda Solis and Sheila Kuehl, the election of Barger and Hahn marks the first time the five-person board will be composed of a majority of women.

For many years, the board was known as the “Five Little Kings,” or “Four Little Kings and a Queen” during more recent years. Until 2002, when term limits were put into place, supervisors served for decades. Antonovich has served since 1980, Knabe since 1996.

But the past two years have seen a large shake up for the nonpartisan office, both in terms of political orientation and gender.

The fiscally conservative clique of Supervisors Zev Yaroslavky, Antonovich and Knabe had long taken a cautious approach to county spending.

With the election of Solis and Kuehl in 2014, along with incumbent Mark Ridley-Thomas, the Board of Supervisors has shifted to the left, bringing additional focus on child-welfare and juvenile-justice issues.

With the election of Hahn in the fourth district, the liberal majority is expected to grow. And while Barger is registered as a Republican, she had the support of many labor unions in the election, traditionally Democratic allies. Plus, her roots in child welfare in the county may translate to a contrast with her spending-averse predecessor.

The new supervisors will start their terms on December 1.

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