Dead man in California poll

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The Independent Online
THERE IS a dead man on the ballot in tomorrow's race for sheriff of Los Angeles County. Sherman Block, the 74-year-old incumbent who was gunning for an unprecedented fifth term in office, died of a brain haemorrhage last Thursday - too late for another candidate to take his place.

One might think this a bit of an embarrassment. But no. Mr Block's supporters are continuing to campaign for him. Indeed, his demise might just be the public sympathy-winner they need to clinch a close race.

Sheriff Block's team has launched into an aggressive new bout of campaigning. They tossed in a personal smear against the lone surviving candidate, Lee Baca. He was forced to break a self-imposed grieving period to defend himself against charges of assault against a female colleague.

By re-electing Sherman Block, it would give the sheriff's department the power to appoint a temporary replacement for two years, pending a new election. In other words, Sheriff Block's power machine would remain in place, and Mr Baca - a department insider - would be punished for daring to stand against the venerable old man.

Mr Baca has even been blamed for bringing on Mr Block's fatal seizure by forcing him into the first run-off of his career. He argued Mr Block's health was partly responsible for a series of scandals at the department, including a number of shootings of black and Latino suspects.

Mr Baca, a Mexican American, wants less of Mr Block's internal politics and more intensive community policing. But as one unnamed observer told the Los Angeles Times: "There was a time when [the voters] would rather see a dead man elected than a Latino."