Sheriff Sandra Hutchens doesn’t have to listen to the term, “appointed” anymore.
Hutchens — who was appointed to finish the term of indicted Sheriff Mike Carona in 2008 — struggled with the temporary nature of her title as she moved to reorganize the department and address a host of issues left over from Carona’s reign.
On Tuesday night, she transformed into the “elected Sheriff.”
Garnering 52 percent of votes cast, with all precincts reporting, Hutchens avoided a November runoff with former sheriff’s deputy Bill Hunt and Anaheim’s deputy police chief Craig Hunter trailing far behind on Tuesday night. Hunt came in at 28 percent and Hunter got 20 percent.
Hutchens campaigned practically from her first days in office.
Shortly after taking over the office, she moved to revoke a series of controversial reserve badges and concealed weapons permits that Carona had bestowed on campaign contributors. The latter drew the ire of gun activists who accused her of being anti-Second Amendment.
Also unhappy were the Republican supervisors who appointed her to the post with a 3-2 vote.
Hutchens stood firm, arguing she would enforce state law as written regarding gun permits.
Hunt campaigned against Hutchens from the far right, calling himself the “constitutional candidate” and taking a hard line against undocumented immigrants. Hunter was more low-key arguing he had the home grown skills and management acumen to lead the department.
After a rocky start, Hutchens — who spent most of her career as an administrator in the LA Sheriff’s Department — hit her stride as a campaigner in the latter half of the race. She stood by her decision to apply stricter standards to concealed weapons permits during debates and often challenged the other two candidates directly.
Tuesday night, as returns came in, a relaxed Hutchens agreed that the hard campaign helped her find herself as an elected official. At first she focused on her qualifications. But as the campaign went on, she was more comfortable differentiating herself from Hunt and Hunter.
Hutchens easily bested her challengers in fundraising, and stayed consistently ahead in the polls. However, many questioned whether she could reach a majority by June.
Some observers criticized the lack of signs from Hutchens noting a significant difference with the Hunt campaign.
But on Tuesday night, Hutchens agreed that her strategy of funding a large series of slate mailers instead of signs was a move that paid off handsomely because it got her name out to a large number of voters.
“It was a good call,” she said.
— NORBERTO SANTANA, JR.