Retired Sheriffs Lt. Alex Villanueva significantly expanded his lead against Sheriff Jim McDonnell by 22,192 votes based on the latest tallies released by the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder late Tuesday afternoon Nov. 13.

McDonnell trailed Villanueva by 4,927 votes in immediate results following the election on Tuesday Nov. 6 and then by only 335 votes in results that came out Friday Nov. 10. The most recent tallies come from vote-by-mail and provisional ballots turned in on Election Day.

“We are thrilled about todays results from the L.A. County Registrar in the race for Sheriff,” Villanueva said in a statement. “With the recent counts showing our lead continuing to grow, its clear that Los Angeles County voters are ready to reform, rebuild, and restore the L.A. County Sheriffs Department.”

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In an interview with Southern California News Group Tuesday, McDonnell said that he was still optimistic the final count would declare him victorious, saying there was still an estimated 686,000 votes left to be counted.

“We are in unusual times,” McDonnell said. “Im optimistic with that many votes left, this race can turn around.”

Based on exit polling conducted by researchers at Loyola Marymount University, the trend experienced Tuesday is expected to continue in the next round of vote tallies to come on Friday. The county has until Nov. 30 to officially certify the results.

Fernando Guerra, a professor and director of the Center for the Study of Los Angeles at Loyola Marymount, who led the exit polling of 1,500 voters, predicted Villanueva would win the race by 53 percent. Based on the latest results, Villanueva had 50.6 percent of the vote.

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Vote-by-mail ballots returned early tended to favor McDonnell in the race, while provisional and vote-by-mail ballots submitted on election day leaned toward Villanueva, Guerra said.

“It depends on what they are still counting,” Guerra said.

The registrar processed an additional 258,482 vote-by-mail ballots and 11,769 ballots from polling locations on Tuesday. Mike Sanchez, a spokesman for the registrar, said the delay was due to the effort it takes to verify signatures.

Hilda Marella Delgado, a spokeswoman for Villanueva, said a deciding factor in the race came down to support the campaign had from Democratic Party groups and other independent expenditure committees. The goal was to paint McDonnell as a conservative and equate the Sheriffs policy of allowing Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers into L.A. County jails as a testing ground for the Trump administration.

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McDonnell denied the claim, saying he has been both a registered Democrat and Republican throughout his life and for at least the past 15 years he has been politically independent.

“As a police executive you should be non partisan,” McDonnell said. “During an election you say whatever you want, but when it comes down to doing the job, you are required to follow the law and run an organization thats effective and in a way that protects the public.”

If he wins, Delgado said that Villanueva would also enforce the law as it relates to immigration enforcement, but also abide by California Senate Bill 54, the so-called sanctuary law, which bars local authorities from asking about immigration status during routine interactions and minor infractions. But the law is currently facing legal challenges.

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