LA County Seal

By Dan Walters
02/19/2015 10:12 PM

It’s obvious that California’s highest-profile political contest next year will be for the U.S. Senate seat that Barbara Boxer will give up after 24 years.

The precise dimensions of the contest have yet to emerge. Attorney General Kamala Harris is the only declared candidate and the early favorite, no matter who else might run.

Everyone’s waiting to see whether former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa takes the plunge, and several congressional members and legislators are mulling it over.

But what, one might wonder, would be the state’s second most important political duel in 2016? It’s a tie – two open seats on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.

The county has more than a quarter of the state’s population, and its five supervisors, each with 2 million constituents, have clout that impacts the entire state, earning them the cynical sobriquet of “five little kings” when all were men.

Republicans have occupied the two seats being vacated for decades. But Supervisors Mike Antonovich, who has more than half of the county’s territory in his northernmost district, and Don Knabe, in its southernmost district, are being forced out by term limits.

Antonovich’s district is the last bastion of semi-dependable Republican strength in the county, whose politics have shifted markedly leftward over the past two decades because of massive demographic and economic change.

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