In a surprising and disappointing ruling, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Luis A. Lavin ruled Tuesday that judicial candidate B. Otis Felder can use the ballot title 'Los Angeles Prosecutor' in the race for open Office No. 61.
Felder will face Deputy District Attorney Dayan Mathai, running as 'Gang Homicide Prosecutor' and Commissioner Jacqueline M. Lewis, running as 'Superior Court Commissioner.' Mathai had challenged Felder's use of the title as misleading because Felder was a temporary volunteer participant in the City Attorney's Office's Reserve Deputy Program, and was not an employee. Further, Felder had an established law practice in Admiralty and Maritime law. Judge Lavin, however, in giving his ruling cited provisions in "the Elections Code and regulations [that] specifically allow candidates to designate the title of their volunteer position as the proposed ballot designation. See Elections Code section 13107.5; see also 2 CCR 20714(a)(2)."
Despite the ruling, Felder still faces an uphill battle in the June 3, 2014 primary election. Many will still regard Felder as being less than honest and perhaps manipulative in his 'volunteerism'; the City Attorney's Reserve Deputy Program was designed to give unemployed newly-qualified attorneys work experience, rather than giving an attorney with eighteen years experience and who describes himself on his website as an "Admiralty and Maritime Law Certified Specialist," the opportunity to acquire a more attractive ballot title.
Felder does not appear to have registered his campaign with the Secretary of State and thus cannot engage in fundraising. Additionally, no campaign website can currently be found for him. Felder, it seems, is relying solely on his ballot title to attract voters, and in a three way fight, his ballot title looks certain to achieve the same third place as his former boss, Carmen Trutanich who came in third with the similar ballot title 'Los Angeles City Prosecutor' in his failed bid to become District Attorney. In that race, Deputy District Attorney Alan Jackson, running as 'Gang Homicide Prosecutor' finished second, winning a place in the runoff.
Mathai, who was one of the first to throw his hat in the ring to become a judge, has raised over $113,000 towards his campaign, and will be able to reach high propensity voters through mail. His likely rival in the runoff will be Commissioner Lewis who, unlike Felder, has registered her campaign with the Secretary of State, but thus far has not engaged in any serious fundraising, reporting just $2,500.00 in her campaign. Lewis too, could be relying to a large extent on her ballot title to carry the day for her on June 3. However, David L. Gould, who runs a political consulting company and represents several candidates for Judge of the Superior Court, recently told the Los Angeles Metropolitan News-Enterprise that "commissioners, in general, do not necessarily do very well against D.A.s."
All things considered, while Mathai no doubt would have preferred Judge Lavin to have prevented Felder from using a questionable ballot title, his campaign appears the strongest, his list of endorsements is impressive, and his established record as a prosecutor is peerless. Those are all factors that will not only connect with voters, but more importantly with editorial boards when they give their recommendations to readers.
UPDATED: We have since learned that Felder does indeed have a campaign website and has registered his campaign with the Secretary of State with the committee ID # 1364137.
Commissioner Lewis now has a campaign website: JacquelineLewisForJudge2014.com