Sunday, February 12, 2012

2012 District Attorney Candidates; The Good, The Bad, and The Underfunded ...

It is just over a year since the Dragnet started covering the race to replace Steve Cooley as Los Angeles District Attorney. Our January 3, 2011 review of potential candidates is still one of the most viewed pages, so thirteen months later, we thought it timely to renew our review of the candidates and their campaigns.

Seven candidates are currently seeking to replace District Attorney Steve Cooley who, on February 7, 2012, confirmed his intention to retire at the end of 2012 after almost 40 years of public service. As a result, the June 5, election will be the first 'open' election for District Attorney since 1964. The March 9, 2012 deadline to file an intention to run for DA is still a ways off, so it is possible that another candidate could throw their hat in the ring. For now we look at seven of the ten potential candidates we identified last year.

Other than ranking the candidates "Good, Bad and Underfunded," the Dragnet expresses no other opinion as to the ranking of the candidates, their names appearing in alphabetical order.


Deputy District Attorney Alan Jackson (left)
Veteran prosecutor in the Major Crimes Division of the District Attorney's Office, Jackson was the first candidate to declare his candidacy. Jackson had already raised over $100k when he launched his campaign and has since raised over $407,000. Jackson has a string of political and police endorsements to lend credibility to his campaign.

Jackson is the only Republican in the race. While Los Angeles politics skews towards Democrats, there remains a sizable block of Republican voters who will follow the recommendation of former Gov. Pete Wilson, who recently endorsed Jackson, as well as those of local Republican clubs where Jackson has been making the rounds. In a primary election where six other candidates are drawing from the Democrat pool of voters, Jackson will likely have a sufficiently high number of votes to comfortably earn a place in the November run-off.     

Party politics aside, many on both sides of the political fence applaud Jackson for being the only candidate to, thus far, take a vocal and vociferous stance against City Attorney Carmen Trutanich's narcissistic ambitions, failed policies, and willingness to lie. In taking the fight to Trutanich, Jackson supporters hail him for showing the strength of character and leadership that is crucial for the leader of the largest prosecutorial agency in the nation; one who takes a firm and unequivocal stand against the kind of political corruption and backroom deals some say are the hallmark of the Trutanich brand.

It's a stand that has earned Jackson the respect, support and endorsement of police associations quick to dissociate themselves from Trutanich's EndorsementGate lies scandal. That the El Monte Police Officers Association announced their endorsement of Jackson days after Trutanich's lies became public is perhaps the clearest indication of the strong bonds Jackson has with the law enforcement community.  

Jackson's campaign website is

Chief Deputy District Attorney Jackie Lacey (center)
Rising star of the DA's Office, the seasoned prosecutor has risen through the ranks to achieve the highest position in the District Attorney's Office short of being the District Attorney; Chief Deputy District Attorney. Those who have worked for Lacey have only praise for her calm, determined and rational style of leadership.

It's a sentiment shared by District Attorney Steve Cooley who has supported Lacey's candidacy from the get-go. This week Cooley released his email endorsement laying out the reasoning behind his support for Lacey, and his promise to those who elected him (a record three times), to leave the District Attorney's Office "in good shape and in good hands. That will occur only if my Chief Deputy District Attorney Jackie Lacey is elected District Attorney." Cooley said.

District Attorney Steve Cooley's email endorsement of Chief Deputy District Attorney Jackie Lacey
went out to thousands of Cooley's supporters on February 7, 2012. It can be downloaded here.

A centrist Democrat, Lacey can expect to benefit from the high number of Democrat voters likely to cast votes in a primary election where, despite President Obama being unopposed, Democrats will nevertheless turn out to express their partisanship. Lacey is known to be working on securing key political endorsements to solidify partisan support for her candidacy.

If there has been any criticism leveled against Lacey's campaign it is the lack of visibility and interest that the campaign initially generated; Lacey raised 'only' $220,000 in 2011. That's about to change dramatically according to sources.

The biggest change appears to be DA Steve Cooley's involvement in her campaign. His email removes any doubts that remained that he will have a last minute change of heart and seek a fourth term, and clearly Cooley is positioning himself to take a more active role in Lacey's campaign. Lacey has also recently revised her website and fired her campaign strategist and fundraiser in favor of seasoned campaign adviser Parke Skelton. We can expect to hear more from the Lacey campaign in the run-up to the June 5, primary election.

Lacey's campaign website is

Deputy District Attorney Mario Trujillo (right)
A former schoolteacher turned prosecutor, Trujillo worked his way up the ranks of the DA's Office including a stint in the Hardcore Gang Division where a string of successful prosecutions signaled to his supervisors that he was ready to step up to a management position; serving first as Special Assistant and then being charged with  running the busy Bellflower Area District Attorney's Office.

Trujillo has been, unquestionably, the surprise candidate in this race. His campaign started as many grassroots campaigns do, with the support and encouragement of friends. He formally announced his candidacy at the 2011 Mexican American Bar Association's Annual Installation Dinner to rapturous applause, and he has since parlayed that support into serious fundraising with donations exceeding $439,000 according to the LA Weekly.

Politically, Trujillo is towards the left of Democrat politics, standing to pick up valuable support from the LGBT community as well as medical marijuana advocates, both of whom likely see Trujillo as receptive to a more tolerant approach to their issues, and both of which are powerful groups. 

If Trujillo's achievements were remarkable as a grassroots campaign, just imagine what he could do with a serious campaign strategist to harness all that momentum? Well imagine no longer.

Mario Trujillo ups the ante in the DA race with announcement that
Ace Smith will guide his campaign in the run up to the primary election
On February 9, 2012, the Trujillo campaign sent the clearest signal possible that Trujillo was raising the stakes in the race with the announcement that one of the most feared and revered campaign strategists, Ace Smith, would be serving as Trujillo's consultant.

Smith is understood to have been approached by other candidates, but chose Trujillo because of his potential to do well enough in the primary to win a place in the November run-off. Trujillo has also demonstrated the kind of fundraising ability that will be needed to pay for the services of a top flight campaign strategist like Smith.

Smith also may have something of a personal score to settle; he was campaign strategist to City Attorney candidate Jack Weiss in 2009, and lost badly to Carmen Trutanich. Nothing would please Smith more than to see Trujillo hand Trutanich a humiliating defeat, a strong likelihood as Trujillo has succeeded in capturing most if not all the support Trutanich previously enjoyed in the Latino community.

Trujillo's campaign website is


Trutanich wins sole place in the 'Bad' category

City Attorney Carmen Trutanich
What more can one say about City Attorney Carmen Trutanich's candidacy than he says about himself; he is a liar.

He lied about his 'Pledge to Serve,' he lied about his police endorsements. If one word summarizes the Trutanich brand of politics it is 'LIAR.' While Trutanich apparently thinks that voters are as as unconcerned about liars as he is about telling lies, the Los Angeles media will do a great deal to educate the electorate about just how little trust can be placed in anything he says. At least that appears to be the case judging by the way local media covered Trutanich's lackluster launch of his campaign. The bully-boy hid behind an email rather than follow through with a a media event on the steps of the Criminal Courts Building. He was, perhaps, afraid of having to deal with questions about his duplicity.

Trutanich, politically, appears to be in a wilderness. A former Republican who became a 'Decline to State' to help his City Attorney campaign, he seems to have lost the support of Republicans who once backed him at the urging of District Attorney Steve Cooley. Republicans have little time for liars, and reports suggest that Trutanich got such a stormy reception at the San Fernando Valley Republican Club that he either left of his own accord, or, as recent comments suggested, he was asked to leave 'before things got out of hand.'

While Republicans revile at his betrayal, Trutanich has been busy forging links to Democrat politicians such as Senators Gil Cedillo, Isadore Hall, Kevin DeLeon and Congressman Brad Sherman, all of whom were listed on his ADDA endorsement questionnaire as 'key endorsers.' It is strongly rumored that Trutanich will now change his party allegiance to Democrat to further his campaign chances in the same way that San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon recently did. Gascon is, coincidentally, also listed as a 'key endorser.'

At 60, Trutanich is by far and away the oldest of the DA candidates, yet he is also the least experienced. He has not prosecuted a felony case since he left the DA's Office 24 years ago in 1988. Trutanich was a Deputy DA for seven years and he said he quit because of low pay. "I had four kids and I had to feed my family, so I went into private practice," was the way Trutanich used to explain his departure from the DA's Office. He may have to come up with an new story for his DA campaign.

State Bar records show that Trutanich was sworn-in as an attorney in May 1979. Typically, those who pass the Bar first time are sworn-in in the month of December. A May swearing-in could indicate having failed the first attempt, not uncommon for those who attend unaccredited law schools. It is not known whether Trutanich, who attended a part-time, night-time unaccredited law school, failed the Bar on his first attempt, or merely delayed taking the Bar Exam.

While the media have been quick to label Trutanich as a "front runner," they have been equally quick to label him a "liar." The front runner status comes from name recognition, and it is going to be up to the media and candidates ready, willing and able to remind voters why they recognize the name; he is a liar.

Liar or not, Trutanich has amassed an enviable warchest. He will need every penny of it, and will likely have to dip into his own resources now that the honeymoon is over and his supporters have been exposed to the less than enthusiastic media response to his candidacy.

Much like Meg Whitman's failed campaign to buy the Governorship, Trutanich's millions may not save his political career.  A recent comment may well sum up many voters' sentiments; "Karma's a bitch Nuch, you're gonna to have even more in common with Jack Weiss than you do now. On election night you're gonna have to sneak out the back door of your victory party just like he did, wishing for a hole to open up in the sidewalk and swallow you up. Voters don't like being used and they don't like being lied to."

Trutanich's website is


Deputy District Attorney Bobby Grace (left)
If sheer numbers of successful prosecutions of complex, serious, violent crimes were the determining factor in who should become the next District Attorney, Bobby Grace would win hands down. That he has run a campaign while trying back to back cases is a credit to his commitment to his job and the Office of District Attorney.

Perhaps because of Grace's commitment to his job, he has not had enough time to devote to fundraising and at last reports, had raised around $60,000. That's a creditable achievement, but few would disagree that it is not nearly enough in a countywide election.

Grace is considered a centrist Democrat, and has been active in local politics. Whether Grace will remain in the race or drop out and support another candidate is sheer speculation at the moment, but it is nevertheless interesting speculation. Grace could remain on the ballot simply to raise his profile for a future political campaign. After the primary, Grace would be well positioned to join forces with one of the candidates in the November general election.

Grace's campaign website is

Deputy District Attorney Steve Ipsen (center)
The former President of the Association of Deputy District Attorneys is the only one of the current candidates who has actually run for District Attorney before. If being something of a contrarian were the determining factor in who should become the next District Attorney, Ipsen would win hands down.

Politically it is hard to accurately place Ipsen. In his prior campaign he seemed to be leaning towards the right in terms of his tough on crime, victim's rights positions. However, his organized labor connections as well as comments from others, suggest he his trending towards Democrat.

Despite his prior campaign experience and his polarizing leadership of the ADDA, Ipsen has not done well in the fundraising department, having raised just $25,000. If Ipsen succeeds in gaining the support of organized labor, however, he could benefit from their fundraising efforts on his behalf, or more likely, substantial union independent expenditures.

Ipsen is also likely to ultimately receive the endorsement of the ADDA. The prosecutors union owes its existence to Ipsen's efforts, although some might also say the ADDA exists despite his efforts. Either way, the ADDA might be wise to endorse Ipsen so as to avoid 'bad blood' with the ultimate victor. Their endorsement of Ipsen would be predictable, justifiable and would likely not offend the frontrunners.

With the promise of labor endorsements and independent expenditures, Ipsen's lack of fundraising is not perhaps as much of a barrier to him making an impact in the primary election. Although it is unlikely that Ipsen will poll high enough to be in the November run-off, he is unlikely to drop out and will likely seek to parlay his organized labor backing into a prominent role in the run up to the November election.  

Ipsen's campaign website is

Deputy District Attorney Danette Meyers (right)
We are surprised to find Danette Meyers amongst the "Underfunded." The veteran prosecutor has dedicated her professional life to the DA's Office, and those who have worked alongside her are quick to sing her praise. Significantly, that includes those who supervised her, former DA Gil Garcetti and former Head Deputy John Lynch have both endorsed Meyers.

Politically a centrist Democrat, Meyers recently became nationally known for her handling of celebrity bad girl Lindsay Lohan's various run ins with the law. While the free publicity is good for a candidate, Meyers' greater achievements are perhaps more worthy of mention. She has successfully prosecuted the most serious of crimes and has the reputation for being a dedicated and effective hard charger.

But parlaying an enviable record as a respected and effective prosecutor into the kind of money needed to fund a countywide political campaign is proving to be a hurdle for Meyers. According to the LA Weekly, Meyers raised just $116,000 in 2011. That may not be as much of a problem for Meyers as it might seem. She has strong ties to LA's legal community, the high point of which must surely be having served as the President of the LA County Bar Association. If campaign contributions aren't sufficient from that quarter, their influence and recommendation will surely result in Meyers having a respectable following in the primary.

Meyers' campaign website is

The June 5, 2012 primary election is less than four months away, and seven candidates are vying for the position. It is unlikely in the extreme that any candidate will receive anything close to 50% plus one vote in order to win the primary outright, so a runoff election in November is virtually guaranteed. The question, of course, is which two of the seven candidates will receive the most votes in order to face off in November?

Your thoughts?

Sidenote: All comments are appreciated, but good points made in comments often have to be rejected because of a potentially defamatory remarks contained in the comment. Keep it is as clean as possible and your comments will be published.



Anonymous said...

Not a surprise to see you call the 3 Cooley Clones Jackson, Lacey and Trujillo the "good". Seriously, Lacey hasn't done a felony trial for as long as Trutanich hasn't (which you go out of your way to mention), and Trujillo and Jackson are junior members of the office who have been DDAs for a second-Jackson having tried only 60 felony trials probably the lowest of all the candidates. Let's also not forget that Lacey and Trujillo were part of the anti-labor lawsuit that the County settled with millions of dollars of legal fees. And you call these people good?!

Anonymous said...

Jackson has done a good job of exposing Trutanich as the worst possible type of candidate. Now that Ace Smith has started to work for Mario Trujillo the heat is really going to turn up. Mario vs. Jackson in November is my prediction.

Nice catch about Trutanich possibly failing the bar exam, can't wait to hear his excuse for that.

Anonymous said...

@7:38AM Get your facts straight. Lacey joined the DAs Office just as Trutanich was leaving. She got awards for her trials in May 2000, and it was only in December 2000 that Cooley gave her a management position. Trutanich is a dinosaur, get over it. You people think lying for Trutanich is going to get you anywhere? Forgetaboutit, he's finished in LA . PERIOD.

Also, I doubt Trujillo is a Cooley Clone after what he said in the Bradley Room about Cooley's outdated administration. Trujillo has the Latino vote and that is big enough in LA to guarantee him a place in the run-off. Hell, he could win this thing outright in June. Go Mario!

Anonymous said...

How much do Cooley and Lacey pay you to write this drivel?

If you were honest, you'd put Jackson and Lacey in the
"underfunded" category as well. They each have $150,000 cash on hand which is peanuts to run in a County the size of the state of Michigan.

You failed to omit Cooley has been helping Lacey for over 8 months now, and her fundraising is anemic at best.

Jackson is losing is endorsments as a result of his nasty, negative tone.

Anonymous said...

Don't know that I like your categories Good, Bad etc, but I agree that the fight for DA will be a Good vs Bad. One of the top 3 will face Nuch in November, and I hope it is Lacey, but Jackson or Trujillo would do a good job demolishing Nuch too. The Ace Smith thing is huge, really really huge. Ace will use every trick in the book to attack Nuch, I guess the Dragnet will have some competition now.

Anonymous said...

Today's Time editorial has a really damaging piece about Trutanich, and they say it will be the first of many.

Anonymous said...

Is it true Dennis Zine pulled his endorsement from Jackson and gave it to Nuch?

Anonymous said...

A shift towards involvement by the LGBT community is a big development. The homophobic community in LA doesn't like like to acknowledge it, but the LGBT community has alot of financial resources. Thanks to the whole Prop 8 debacle, many there have ditched their complacence with state and local politics and ready to get involved.

Anonymous said...

I'm sure Dennis Zine's switch to endorsing Trutanich has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that Jackson is the only candidate who is willing to call out Trutanich for his lies and has everything to do with Zine's involvement in this ridiculous lawsuit against Northern Trust. Zine and Trutanich sure looked cozy together at the press conference announcing the lawsuit.
I wonder what Trutanich promised Zine in exchange for buying his endorsement?

Anonymous said...

It's true. LA Times has already reported it online.

Anonymous said...

The Republican Party is talking about pulling their endorsement from Jackson as well. There was a conf call tonight.

Hang tough, people. Jackson will get us there.

Anonymous said...

Dennis Zine has been Nuch's buddy from the time Nuch started his campaign to become City Attorney. Zine was the only council member to endorse Nuch, and it was inevitable that he would switch endorsements the moment Nuch officially announced his run for DA. To suggest that Zine is pulling his endorsement for any other reason is bogus. Do you seriously think that Zine, who got $30k in campaign donations from Nuch's San Pedro buddies last week, would maintain his endorsement of Jackson after Nuch went public? Come on people. This is just another Nuch lie. I'm losing count now, what is it, lie number 7?

Anonymous said...

Dragnet - please report on the untold story that Alan Jackson has blown through almost 70% of the funds he's raised so far. This is why people are starting to jump ship.

How can he manage the office when he can't even manage his own campaign? And don't tell me a whole bunch of money is going to fall from the sky. Even John Thomas will tell you that the contributions have slowed to a trickle.

Anonymous said...

10:29PM - In your dreams Nuch. Jackson's stock has risen enormously since the lies about your endorsements came out, And Zine's endorsement? Ha. Who is he trying to kid.

NOT Trujillo for DA said...

Trujillo may have money and endorsements of "electeds" but he is not winning the community support. As the only openly gay candidate in the race, he has lost the endorsements of ALL of the LGBT Democratic Clubs in Los Angeles County. And I hear that he blew his lid at his interview with the labor unions because they called him out on the lawsuit that he is named in for union busting!