Monday, January 7, 2013

Los Angeles City Attorney candidates

With eight weeks to go before the March 5, 2013 Primary Election to decide on LA's next City Attorney, the three leading campaigns are locked and loaded in preparation for a round of pre-election debates where the differences between the candidates will come more sharply into focus.

In many ways the choice for voters has been defined not so much by the efforts of the campaigns, but rather by the records of the candidates. The candidates have previously been described as 'An Empty Suit, an Empty Head, and a Guy called Smith,' we prefer to boil it down to a choice between a Liar, a Lobbyist and a Lawman.

Carmen Trutanich - 'Liar'

If the current City Attorney had done as much to live up to his promises as he has done to break them, then he might have a chance at hanging on to the job he was so willing to forsake barely six months ago. However, his political career path came to a dead end with the collapse of his Hindenberg-like campaign to become District Attorney.

If there is one thing that voters will remember about Carmen Trutanich when they see his name on the ballot, it will be they reason why they so soundly rejected him; he is a liar. His false statements about his 'Pledge to Serve,' support for the Controllers right to audit elected officials, Police endorsements, Ballot Designation, Campaign video YouTube hits, his claim to have been the victim of a gang assassination attempt, or any number of other 'Truth Challenged' claims, his is a woeful record that no amount of campaign cash can overcome.

Faced with a target-rich environment to attack his candidacy for District Attorney, the local media made short work of the man the LA Times called 'Liar,' they look poised to repeat the compliment as the ghosts of campaigns past return to ensure that there will be one more ambulance chaser, slip and fall lawyer hanging a shingle in San Pedro.

Mike Feuer - 'Lobbyist'

Feuer returns to the Los Angeles political scene as a termed-out State Assemblyman. He comes to the armed with the armful of special-interest campaign cash he expected to have, but faced with a couple of opponents he did not expect. When Feuer first launched his campaign, it bore all the appearances of a backroom political deal. At that time City Attorney Trutanich was hell bent on becoming District Attorney and widely considered to be the front-runner, if not heir apparent. Such was the coziness between Trutanich and Feuer that they initially shared the same campaign manager; the ubiquitous John Shallman.

But after Trutanich detonated in the DA primary, the honeymoon was over. Any nightmarish scenario under which Feuer would have endorsed Trutanich for DA, and Trutanich as DA would endorse Feuer for City Attorney vanished even before Nuch took the first step of his walk of shame at his San Pedro victory party.

Now Feuer not only lacks the support he expected from 'his' DA, but faces a significant hurdle in his bid to be City Attorney; he has no courtroom experience and has not practiced law as an attorney for over twenty years. Instead, Feuer had been the consummate Sacramento career politician with a record of support from, and support for, questionable causes. When Governor Brown needed support for his crime-wave stimulus package, better known as AB109 're-alignment,' it was Feuer who lobbied tirelessly among the Sacramento politicians to foist this budget driven havoc on Los Angelenos.

Feuer has since attempted to distance himself from AB109, instead hailing his authorship of public safety laws. Unfortunately, however, while Feuer has record of making laws, he has no record of enforcing laws.  His is a record of putting in work for 'the party,' and is the 'go to guy' for political insiders. While he can claim the highest number of endorsements, they come almost exclusively from the ranks of fellow career politicians. With the low regard that voters have for Sacramento politicians, Feuer's hopes of making it through the primary would seem to depend heavily on voter disgust for the incumbent and party-line support. March 6, 2013 could be a rude awakening for Feuer, but at least he has a career as a lobbyist.

Greg Smith - 'Lawman'

Most people associate the name Greg Smith with former City Councilman Greig Smith. It's the kind of name recognition that could well enure to Greg Smith's advantage; the CD12 Councilman was popular and well-regarded, virtually guaranteeing Greg Smith a handy 'bump' on election day. But in order for Smith to inform the majority of voters of his qualifications, he's going to need a healthy campaign warchest.

Fortunately, Smith has a healthy campaign warchest having injected over $650k into his campaign, with the expectation of raising $1M by election day. That should be more than enough to get his message out; he is the only candidate with hands-on courtroom experience in police litigation cases where he has shown that he understands not only how to effectively prosecute a case, but as more important corollary, how to defend a case; an area where the current City Attorney has failed spectacularly.

Smith's legal experience can perhaps be best characterized as standing up for the downtrodden, outing corruption and unfair practices; a theme that should resonate well with Los Angelenos who have seen the way many of their elected officials have swiftly abandoned their interests and concerns for membership of the business as usual brigade. Smith can also expect to draw support from law enforcement as the only candidate who did not support AB109, he perhaps, more than any candidate, understands what law enforcement needs to keep the city safe given his close ties to both LAPD and the Sheriff's Dept.

In making his decision to enter public service, Smith leaves behind a successful private law practice which has undeniably made him a wealthy man. It is a rare event when someone enters the political arena poised to give the the public the benefit of his experience and success, rather than use and abuse the privilege of public office to further their own interests; something distinguishes Smith from his main rivals. Smith will likely do well in the debates as he has a record to run on, rather than one to run away from.


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