Despite Los Angeles City Attorney Carmen Trutanich's recent statement that he is running for re-election when his term expires in 2013, many now consider him 'unelectable' based on his disastrous loss in the District Attorney primary election.
Trutanich was considered to be the front-runner even before he had officially announced his intention to run for DA and thereby renege on his 'Pledge to Serve' in February 2012; he had the name recognition, a slew of political endorsements and over a million dollars in his campaign coffers - three times more than any of his rivals. He seemed invincible, the heir apparent, the putative incumbent.
But four months later, on June 5, when the first results from the primary election became known, Trutanich was in a surprisingly distant third place. To describe the mood at Trutanich's victory party in his hometown San Pedro as somber would be an understatement; the local boy made good had bragged about winning the election outright, or at least being the leading candidate in a run-off election. But in an instant the mood in the room changed from jubilation to despondency.
Trutanich remained separated from his supporters as the night wore on, perhaps unable to face the reality of what had happened, or desperately hoping for an improvement as more votes were counted.
It was not to be. Trutanich remained solidly and remotely in third place throughout the evening. His loss to first-placed Jackie Lacey, the Chief Deputy District Attorney, and to second placed Alan Jackson, the Assistant Head Deputy of the Major Crimes Division, must have been insufferably humiliating and embarrassing for Trutanich; they were political novices with a fraction of Trutanich's campaign warchest.
|Trutanich looked visibly shaken when forced to face the small group|
of supporters who remained as his political career expired.
Others in Trutanich's inner circle blamed campaign manager John Shallman for the many 'missteps' in Trutanich's campaign. Most notably, the false claims about non-existent police association endorsements, the phony 'viral' YouTube campaign video, the attempt to mislead voters with the false and misleading ballot designation of 'Chief Criminal Prosecutor,' and of course, Trutanich's lies about being the victim of a gangland assassination attempt in the 1980's.
But while it is easy to point the finger at Shallman for the many falsehoods that came to characterize Trutanich as untrustworthy, even 'truth challenged,' the fact remains that Trutanich approved of each and every one of those 'missteps.' His inability or reluctance to correct false or misleading campaign claims was likely the reason that voters so definitively rejected his candidacy for District Attorney.
Trutanich's conduct during his ill-fated DA campaign will continue to define him if indeed he is serious about seeking re-election as City Attorney. The serious credibility issues will not go away simply because Trutanich is running in a different race, and the media are unlikely to accept his 'sick mother' excuse for avoiding inconvenient questions again.
Last week Trutanich told KCRW's Warren Olney that he was 'definitely' running for re-election. Those familiar Trutanich, however, say that his voice sounded weak and unconvincing. 'He might want to be re-elected,' one source said, 'but it's not going to happen, he is unelectable after losing the DA race so dramatically.' He said.
Trutanich's DA campaign manager, John Shallman, has made no secret of his belief that Trutanich is finished in politics; 'he [should] "finish his term strong," and then look for other ways to stay involved in civic affairs.' Shallman told the LA Weekly, adding that 'I did suggest to Carmen that he should consider what his options are at this point,' Shallman said. 'He could continue to do a good job as city attorney and finish his term strong, and focus on some of the issues he cares about ... without necessarily being city attorney. A lot of people have foundations that can help rehabilitate his name.'
Many see Shallman's comment about Trutanich's need to 'rehabilitate' his name as a discrete but clear signal that Trutanich's reputation for misleading and mischaracterizing the truth is an insurmountable barrier to his re-election. 'Los Angelenos don't like liars, and Trutanich was shown to be a liar on so many occasions that I lost count.' A former supporter said. 'I was not surprised that he lost, but I was surprised that so many voters found him unacceptable, I thought it would be a lot closer.' He said.
Shallman also confirmed that he will no longer work for Trutanich. Instead, the seasoned campaign strategist will work for State Assemblyman Mike Feuer's rival campaign to become Los Angeles City Attorney.
Weakened by the loss of the DA election, further weakened by the loss of his campaign manager, and still facing the same character issues that caused his downfall in the DA primary, few believe that Trutanich has a realistic chance at winning re-election. Rival City Attorney candidates Greg Smith and Mike Feuer both have already established campaign committees, have professional campaign managers, and have raised six-figures sums in campaign donations. Trutanich has thus far done nothing but say he is running for re-election, and if anything has defined Trutanich recently, it is that what he says cannot be believed.