PALMDALE — Mayor Jim Ledford’s 26 years in office looked to be coming to an end Tuesday night as early returns showed Councilman Steve Hofbauer leading that race.
In preliminary election results, Hofbauer was ahead with 44.30% of the votes cast, or 4,252 votes, in the three-way race.
Ledford, facing criminal corruption charges, was close behind, with 37.91% of the votes cast, or 3,639 votes, in the early results which include only absentee ballots.
Challenger V. Jesse Smith, co-founder of The Community Action League, garnered 17.78% of the total vote, or 1,707 votes.
Ledford pleaded not guilty in August to five felony counts in the criminal corruption case in which he and two co-defendants are accused of conspiring to embezzle hundreds of thousands of dollars in NASA funds from a Palmdale-based nonprofit educational organization the co-defendants ran. The plea came more than a year after the charges were initially filed June 21, 2017, as the arraignment was postponed six times. Additional charges were filed in January.
A preliminary hearing in the case, in which a judge will determine if there is sufficient evidence to proceed with a trial, is scheduled for Feb. 11 after being postponed from Oct. 3.
Prosecutors allege Ledford was paid $60,000 a year without performing any substantial work for the organization, the AERO Institute.
His co-defendants, former AERO Institute executive director Susan Miller and former AERO Institute president and city consultant Kimberly Shaw, also pleaded not guilty to the charges against them.
In the City Council race for the District 4 seat, incumbent Juan Carrillo was leading in the early returns, with 62.02% of the ballots cast, or 1,086 votes.
Challenger Oscar Aleman, a former Planning Commissioner and businessman, had amassed 37.98%, or 665 votes.
Palmdale voters were also casting votes Tuesday for directors representing two divisions for the Palmdale Water District.
In the Division 2 race, challenger Don Wilson, a school personnel commissioner, was leading in the early results, carrying 60.84% of the votes cast, or 814 votes.
Division 2 incumbent Joe Estes had garnered 39.16% of the ballots, or 524 votes.
Estes’ tenure on the board has been marked by periods of contention with other board members, most recently in a dispute over his use of the district’s administrative office address in his campaign filing and absences from meetings in recent months following surgery.
In the race to represent Division 5, current Board President Vincent Dino looked to be heading for re-election, with 75.99% of the ballots cast, or 788 votes, in the early results.
Challenger Sheik Aslam, a teacher, had 24.01% of the votes cast, or 249 votes.
Palmdale voters also had their say in a Valley-wide race for two directors for the Antelope Valley Healthcare District Board of Directors, which oversees Antelope Valley Hospital.
Early election returns showed incumbents Dr. Phil Tuso with 41.80% of the total, or 14,911 votes, and Dr. Don Parazo, with 33.19% or 11,839 votes, leading the race.
Challenger Michael Rives had collected 25.01% of the total, or 8,920 votes.
By press time Tuesday night, Los Angeles County election officials has posted results from only the vote-by-mail and early voting ballots, as the ballot count continued..
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