By Joe Taglieri
Raj Kahlon is a longtime 5th District resident who is making another run for a seat on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.
In the last election he tried to defy the odds and unseat Michael Antonovich, the district’s mainstay incumbent who has held the office since the early-1980s. Not surprisingly, given the heavily tilted advantage incumbents seem to have these days, especially at the local government level, Kahlon didn’t accomplish his immediate goal.
But that didn’t discourage him from throwing his hat in the 2016 electoral ring, hoping that his second bid turns out more successfully than his initial foray into the spotlight of the county political scene.
His first go-round was certainly a long-shot attempt to oust the seemingly invincible Antonovich, but Kahlon did manage to receive more than 20 percent of the popular vote totaling nearly 42,000 ballots cast in his favor, according to the county Registrar-Recorder.
After years of what Kahlon felt was Antonovich’s unresponsiveness to his appeals for attention to a range of issues affecting the district and county, he decided a core tenet of his campaign platform would be a pledge to more actively listen to constituents. A lack of face time with the supervisor has been a frustrated Kahlon’s most prominent complaint against Antonovich.
The same ethos holds true for Kahlon this time around. He is holding to a steadfast pledge for intensive listening sessions and frequent in-person contact with constituents.
And though the absence of a deeply entrenched incumbent thanks to term limits changes the dynamic of 2016’s wide open race, if elected Kahlon said he intends to offer a sea change in the level of access residents have with their county rep compared with the Antonovich era.
“It’s very important that you have time for the people,” Kahlon said. “So that they can come to you and address the issues that are important to them in their neighborhood. If you don’t listen to the public, how can you solve their problems?”
Kahlon also identified a number of key issues that were top attention-getters, such as the need to reduce the caseloads of social workers who deal with at-risk kids and children in foster care, water issues, public safety and crime reduction, more plentiful after-school programs and more nutritious food options for students, less jail overcrowding, job creation and a $15 minimum wage.
“We need to hire more social workers, we need to have unannounced visits to the foster parents’ house to see how they’re doing, and also we need unannounced visits to the schools,” Kahlon said, noting the importance of increased accountability for all those involved in foster care, including those in higher-up supervisory positions.
Kahlon also proudly noted the fact that his campaign would be self-funded without any active fundraising, though his website does have a page that contains a contribution form and a Santa Clarita post office box that accepts donation checks.
“The last time I ran for the office I received zero contributions, no gifts, no endorsements,” he said. “I don’t want to be controlled by any special interests.”
Born Rajpal Kahlon in 1962 in Punjab, India, to a military family – both his father and grandfather were career officers in the Indian army – the current Palmdale resident and 5th District hopeful came to the United States in 1984.
Prior to emigrating from India, Kahlon said he earned a college degree in agriculture and in the early-1980s worked in the Mumbai film industry for producer and director Prakash Mehra.
Presently Kahlon said his business activities include real estate, retail businesses and family-owned interests that include a medical office and construction company.
The candidate described himself as a compassionate person who “is 100 percent for the people.”
Kahlon observed that his passion to serve the community and keen ability to listen to and empathize with individuals are traits that will guide him well toward being an effective county supervisor.
“The public is the boss,” he said. “They are the taxpayers; they are the ones that put us in the office, so we must listen to the people.”
Kahlon and his wife Donice, who teaches kindergarten in Palmdale, have been married for 28 years. They have one son, Jeremy Kahlon, 26.
The primary election is in June, and the general election is in November 2016.