Thursday, June 19, 2014

McDonnell's Runoff Kickoff "Impressive" while Tanka Campaign Tanks

Although hopes have faded that the final tally of uncounted votes would push Long Beach Police Chief Jim McDonnell's campaign past 50% plus one vote to win the primary outright, McDonnell kicked off his runoff campaign in an impressive way with a "thank you" reception at the Beverly Hills home of billionaire business magnet Ron Burkle.

More impressive than the setting for the reception was the turnout, with valet parkers hard pushed to keep pace with the numbers of McDonnell supporters who arrived eager to join in the celebration of McDonnell's crushing victory over distant second place finisher Paul Tanaka. It was a standing room only event as the crowd who had gathered to hear from McDonnell made the palatial home seem cramped. Out of respect for the host's wishes, the Dragnet will not publish photographs of the event, suffice it to say that there is only one word for the sheer size and quality of those supporting McDonnell; impressive. Law Enforcement, political, civic and business leaders from across the political spectrum were united in their support for LA's next Sheriff.

McDonnell's candidacy has soared as leading law enforcement groups united in their support of McDonnell; ALADS, the representative body of over 10,000 rank and file Deputy Sheriffs, announced their endorsement of McDonnell for Sheriff on Tuesday. Joining ALADS were:

  • Professional Peace Officers Association
  • Los Angeles Police Protective League
  • Long Beach Police Officers Association
  • Probation Supervisors Association
  • Los Angeles County Deputy Probation Officers Association (AFSCME Local 685)
  • Los Angeles Airport Police Officers Association
  • Los Angeles School Police Association
  • Los Angeles School Police Management Association
  • Baldwin Park Police Association
  • San Marino Police Association
  • Torrance Police Officers Association
  • Glendale Police Officers Association
With McDonnell poised to mount a robust campaign for the November 4, 2014 runoff election, the same cannot be said for rival Paul Tanaka, who remains mired in the scandals at the Sheriff's Dept. that occurred on his watch as Undersheriff.

Sources inform the Dragnet that Tanaka has not decided whether or not to run a campaign for the runoff, and has asked his inner circle to "take some time" to reflect on whether the devastatingly low number of votes cast for him in the primary might raise serious and embarrassing challenges to  fundraising. Tanaka out-raised McDonnell, yet received a drubbing on election night. It's an experience he is unlikely to want repeated, and withdrawing from the election might salvage what's left of his career in local politics.

Informed observers see Tanaka's predicament as somewhat similar to that facing former District Attorney Ira Reiner, who finished second to rival Gil Garcetti in the 1992 primary election. Reiner ultimately withdrew from the race, resulting in Garcetti winning the runoff with 82% of the vote. For an excellent and well researched analysis of the Reiner-Garcetti race, please read the Metropolitan News-Enterprise Perspectives column "Reiner, His Support Dwindling, Quits the Race."

Regardless of whether or when Tanaka quits the race, the reality for McDonnell is that he has to mount a campaign. He has to leverage the support he now enjoys not only from those who supported him in the primary, but that too of his challengers, nearly all of whom have pledged their support for McDonnell over Tanaka.

A potential problem for McDonnell may be convincing supporters to dip into their pockets and raise the kind of money it takes to run a countywide campaign. Some supporters may feel that with the size of McDonnell's victory in the primary, the runoff is a foregone conclusion and he doesn't need money. It may well be a foregone conclusion, but only if McDonnell can reach the voters in November in the same way that he did in June. And that takes money.

If the level of support McDonnell enjoyed at his reception Wednesday night can translate into a well-funded campaign, then expect history to repeat itself; McDonnell wins by 82% over Tanaka.


Friday, June 13, 2014

Time for Reform of Judicial Elections?

While we eagerly await the release of the third update to the results of the June 3, 2014 primary election to see if the latest count of votes puts LA County Sheriff candidate Jim McDonnell over  50% plus 1 vote to win the election outright, our thoughts turn to the results of the judicial elections.

There were 15 Judicial Offices, or "seats," on the ballot, 3 of which were uncontested meaning easy wins for 3 Deputy District Attorneys. Of the remaining 12 seats, 11 were "open" meaning there was no incumbent. 24 candidates vied for those seats; 12 were Deputy District Attorneys, 3 were Superior Court Commissioners, 3 had been Superior Court Referees at some point in time, 2 were Deputy City Attorneys, and 2 were attorneys.

The results of two seats will not be known until November when runoffs will take place. However, of the 9 open seats where there were only two candidates, in all cases a Deputy District Attorney was elected. In the one seat that did feature an incumbent, Judge James B. Pierce, challenger Deputy District Attorney Carol Najera surprisingly emerged as the victor.

With Deputy District Attorneys sweeping the board in the elections, it is no surprise that some have expressed concern with the voters' choice.

Leading the charge against the voters is the LA Times. In an OpEd piece asking whether the voters should be ousted, columnist Robert Greene concluded that judicial elections should not be ended, but suggested more news coverage and candidate forums might cure any perceived shortcomings with the current judicial election process.  The Times, it will be recalled, endorsed only 4 Deputy DAs in the election. The Times clearly did not have the voters' pulse, much to the relief of several Deputy DAs who really should have gained the endorsement, but failed to do so for reasons previously discussed.

Although the Times had its nose bloodied with their woeful endorsements, they did not suggest any other meaningful reform to judicial elections, short of ousting the voters altogether.

But not so the Los Angeles Metropolitan New-Enterprise.

In a remarkably prescient editorial, published five weeks before the election, the Met News opined that the current electoral system would result in some unqualified candidates being elected, and some very well qualified candidates being excluded.

"As we have in the past, we observe that our present elective system makes no sense, and that all candidates for Superior Court open seats should run as a pack—a system used fleetingly in the early 1900s. There are 11 contests this year for open seats. There are 24 candidates for open seats. The names of all 24, with accurate, current, job titles under the names, should be listed on the ballot with no office numbers, and with those 11 drawing the highest number of votes being elected." The Met News said.

It's an intriguing idea, electing the overall top vote-getters. But we wondered whether the outcome would be any different? In order to attempt to answer that question, we analyzed the latest numbers released by the LA County Registrar-Recorder to find the top 12 vote-getters to see who would be judge under this system.

Interestingly, the same 10 Deputy DAs would have been elected, but Judge Pierce would have held on to his seat, and former Superior Court Referee Pamela Matsumoto would also have been elected. Of course this is not a very scientific or statistically accurate forecast of how the "top 12" approach would have worked, as two of the seats now headed to runoff featured 6 candidates, so the vote there was somewhat diluted. But overall the outcome does seem remarkably similar to the results of the primary election.

Some things, of course, do not change. Three of the biggest losers would remain unelected; Part-time filing Deputy DA Helen Kim, who blew at least a half a million dollars to try to buy the seat, still sucks. And so does B Otis Felder, the man who was stupid enough to run with a hybrid of Carmen Trutanich's disastrous ballot designation, "Los Angeles Prosecutor."  Reassuringly, we note that Deputy City Attorney Songhai 'Sunny' Armstead's race-baiting campaign would also have failed.

Seems whichever way you count the votes, some rotten apples will still be outed.


Tuesday, June 10, 2014

McDonnell Close to Outright Victory in Updated Election Results

Long Beach Police Chief and leading LA County Sheriff candidate Jim McDonnell is getting closer to claiming outright victory in the June 3, 2014 primary election. McDonnell now has 49.73% of the vote, up from election night's figure of 49.15%.

The LA County Registrar-Recorder released the results of the second update as previously uncounted votes were verified and tabulated. Of the 160,000 such votes, 114,753 were found to be valid, according to today's news release. A further update is scheduled for Friday June 13, 2104, and will probably occur towards the end of the day. The Registrar-Recorder's News Room can be accessed by clicking here.

Of the 114,753 votes now validated, 108,948 included votes for Sheriff. The actual figures, taken from the election results website are:

Significantly, McDonnell polled 57,273 votes of the 108,948 votes counted in the second update, and that equates to 52.57% of second update votes going to McDonnell. If that trend continues in the remaining 50,000 or so votes to be verified, McDonnell will win the primary outright.

Even if Friday's third update does not put McDonnell over the 50% plus one vote victory line, the results of the primary makes the result of a runoff a foregone conclusion; one that is so overwhelming that it will likely cause the distant second place finisher Paul Tanaka to withdraw from the runoff.

In other news...

The updated election results also appear to confirm the trend in two of the closer races for Judge of the Superior Court. In Office No. 117, Deputy DA Carol Najera has increased her lead in the surprise defeat of sitting Superior Court Judge James B. Pierce. Najera now has 50.43% of the vote. In Office No. 107, Deputy DA Joan Chrostek remains in the lead with 51.71%.


Friday, June 6, 2014

Tanaka To Throw-In The Towel?

Jim McDonnell may have won election as LA County Sheriff

Rumors are circulating that Long Beach Police Chief Jim McDonnell has clinched the primary election, based a large number of votes yet to be verified.

Tuesday night's landslide electoral victory for McDonnell was historic; so strong was support for McDonnell that he effectively destroyed any hope the distant second place finisher Paul Tanaka had for a November runoff.

McDonnell polled 49.15% of votes counted, a mere 5,000 votes short of the necessary 50% plus one vote to win the election outright. Tanka polled a mere 14.74% a devastatingly low number for the former number two to Sheriff Baca and likely a reflection on his admission that he remains a 'subject' of a federal investigation into the abuse and corruption in the county jails, occurring on his watch.

We stress the words "votes counted" because the LA Times reports that there are some 150,000 uncounted votes still to be verified and found to be valid or otherwise. Those uncounted votes are a combination of postal ballots received late, postal ballots handed in at polling stations, and provisional ballots issued to voters whose name could not initially be found on electoral rolls - no hanging chads in this election.

Dean Logan, the LA County Registrar/Recorder, has until July 4, 2014 to verify just how many of those 150,000 votes are valid. However, rumors are rife a preliminary verification of these uncounted votes shows that McDonnell has in fact won the election, and the final result will become known before the July 4 deadline. The LA County Registrar/Recorder's website is to be regularly updated as the uncounted votes are verified, and will be keenly watched.

Regardless of whether or not McDonnell has won the primary, such is the strength of his lead that the outcome of a November runoff is effectively a forgone conclusion. Several of McDonnell's opponents have already declared their support for McDonnell, stating that 'the voters have spoken' as to their choice of LA County's next Sheriff. Sources suggest that Tanaka has already been advised to throw in the towel now and avoid the Trutanich-like humiliation that otherwise awaits him in November.

If indeed McDonnell is declared the outright victor and Sheriff-elect before July 4, it would not only give him a breather from the relentless pace he has maintained throughout his campaign, but more importantly allow him to put a transition team in place to start working on the many reforms needed to put an end to the scandals that have plagued the Sheriff's Dept. in recent times.

As for Tanaka, few people could keep a straight face are giving any credence to statements made by his consultant, Reed Galen, that "Tuesday's low turnout of 13% means that there are many voters who could be persuaded to side with Tanaka in the general election." Another side-splitting comment from Galen was that "Tanaka's insider status is an asset, not a hindrance." It seems that Tanaka should not only be considering a new campaign strategy, but a new career.

Fernando Guerra, a political science professor at Loyola Marymount University, predicted that donors and endorsers would flock to McDonnell after his lopsided victory, calling Tanaka "a very lonely candidate." the LA Times reported. "It's obviously a slam-dunk for McDonnell in the runoff," Guerra said. "He'll still have to run a campaign, and some crazy thing can happen, but without any great revelations, McDonnell should win and probably win two to one."


Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Historic Victories in Primary Election

It may have been a record low voter turnout in Tuesday's primary election, but quality not quantity defines those who did show up and vote. An informed electorate made some wise decisions that overwhelmed the well-funded campaigns of bad candidates.

LA County Sheriff: Jim McDonnell Trounces Tanaka

Former DA Steve Cooley announces LA County Sheriff candidate Jim McDonnell's
historic win in the primary election.
LA County Sheriff candidate Jim McDonnell won the primary election by a landslide despite lagging behind disgraced former Undersheriff Paul Tanaka in fundraising. As we close for press with 73% of precincts reporting, McDonnell has 48.5% of the vote, 33.5% ahead of his predicted runoff challenger Tanaka.

LA County Sheriff candidate Jim McDonnell, surrounded by his wife and daughter
at his Election Party at the JW Marriott in Downtown Los Angeles.
The crushingly high lead held by McDonnell suggests that the November runoff may be a mere formality. Tanaka, who out raised and out spent McDonnell, was unable to match his campaign rhetoric with votes, polling a dismal 14.93%. Tanaka's campaign tried to distance the former number two to Sheriff Baca from the scandals that ran rife on his watch, but voter concerns over Tanaka being "under investigation" by federal authorities put paid to any dreams he may have had that he could fool voters into electing him as Sheriff. Tanaka will face McDonnell in the November runoff, unless he decides to withdraw in the face of what seems to be certain defeat.

LA County Assessor: John Morris secures place in runoff against Jeffrey Prang

Head Deputy District Attorney John Morris won enough of the vote to win a place in the November runoff that will pitch him against Jeffrey Prang.  Barely 2 percentage votes separate Morris and Prang; a political disaster for Prang who had the sweep of democrat endorsements. In the November runoff, Morris will likely defeat Prang as media attention focuses on all the reasons why Prang is utterly unfit to hold this office.

DDA Candidates sweep nearly all Judicial Races

As predicted, Deputy District Attorneys Amy Carter (Office No. 22), Andrew Cooper (Office No. 157), Donna Hollingsworth Armstrong (Office No. 138) and Stacy Weise (Office No. 107) won their races handily. Of the 'races to watch' there were some surprises.

Office No. 48: Carol Rose wins with almost 67% of the vote.

Office No. 54: Shannon Knight defeats Commissioner Debra Losnick. It seems that Political Campaign Strategist David Gould's prophecy that "commissioners, in general, do not necessarily do very well against D.A.s." was on the money; all commissioners and referees failed to best their DDA rivals.

Office No. 61: Dayan Mathai will face Commissioner Jacqueline Lewis in the November runoff. Mathai polled 46.5%, Lewis 41% and phony "Los Angeles Prosecutor" B. Otis Felder 12.5%. Mathai would likely have won but for Felder's candidacy, but November will see if David Gould's prophecy continues to hold true.

Office No. 76: Alison Matsumoto Estrada polled a crushing 56.7% of the vote, demolishing part-time "Criminal Prosecutor" Helen Kim who, despite spending over $800k of special interest money to buy the seat, failed miserably.

Office No. 87: Steven Schriener failed in his bid to best Andrew Stein and the totally unfit and unqualified Deputy City Attorney Tom Griego. Stein, who polled lowest in the early results, emerged top of the polls as late votes were counted. Stein will face Griego in November, and will likely crush him.

Office No. 97: Teresa Magno beat race card player Deputy City Attorney Songhai "Sunny" Armstead.

Office No. 107: Joan Chrostek beat alleged work shy Commissioner Emma Castro.

Office No. 117: As we close for press, Carol Najera is surprisingly holding the slenderest of leads over incumbent Superior Court Judge James B. Pierce.

Expect a recount in this race.


Tuesday, June 3, 2014

It's Election Day - Get Out And Vote!

Polls open at 7:00AM today, and close at 8:00PM. By 9:00PM the first results should start coming through, typically, those will be the results of vote by mail ballots. The turnout at the polls could change early results. So get out and vote!

Races To Watch:

LA County Sheriff

With 7 candidates on the ballot and no incumbent, a runoff between the top 2 candidates is a virtual guarantee. Long Beach Police Chief Jim McDonnell is hotly tipped to be in the runoff; he's the only viable outsider and the only candidate with the kind of leadership experience the Sheriff's Dept. needs. McDonnell has the seep of media, law enforcement and civic leader endorsements, and an expertly managed campaign. Expect McDonnell to poll higher than the rest of the field.

But who will join McDonnell in the November runoff? Either of former undersheriff Paul Tanaka and current Assistant Sheriff James Hellmold are likely to face McDonnell in the runoff based on their fundraising. Tanaka has raised the most money overall having campaigned the longest, but in the last reporting period McDonnell raised twice as much as Tanaka. But Tanaka desperately needs every dime he raised just to address his negatives; as former number two to Sheriff Baca, Tanaka is tainted with failed leadership and accusations of involvement in the many scandals that caused Sheriff Baca to withdraw from the race.

Hellmold ranks third in fundraising, thanks to arm twisting support from former Sheriff Baca. He could eclipse Tanaka for a place in the runoff, if voters have any sense.

Former Sheriff's Commander Bob Olmsted was hotly tipped to provide a serious challenge in this race, but support for his campaign has virtually dried up since McDonnell entered the race and presented voters with stronger candidate. Expect Olmsted to be the best of the rest.

LA County Assessor

Head Deputy District Attorney John Morris is the only outsider in a field of 12 candidates, and will likely poll high enough to feature in an almost certain runoff having gained all the major media endorsements. His likely challenger is Jeffrey Prang, a West Hollywood Councilmember and experienced political aide. Prang, however, has baggage. He was the choice of disgraced County Assessor John Noguez and also held a questionable "field deputy" position under Sheriff Baca.

Judicial Races

Deputy District Attorneys Amy Carter (Office No. 22), Andrew Cooper (Office No. 157), Donna Hollingsworth Armstrong (Office No. 138) and Stacy Weise (Office No. 107) have all run strong campaigns and have valuable endorsements. They will likely win their races.

Of the remaining DDA candidates:
Office No. 48: Carol Rose has two things in her favor; her ballot title "Child Molestation Prosecutor," and her opponent Charles Calderon of the Calderon family. Yes, that Calderon family.

Office No. 54: Shannon Knight will be hoping her ballot title, "Gang Homicide Prosecutor," outshines that of Commissioner Debra Losnick.

Office No. 61: Dayan Mathai, another "Gang Homicide Prosecutor," is in a three-way race with Commissioner Jacqueline Lewis and a phony; B. Otis Felder. An outright win for of any in this race is unlikely, so all eyes will be on this race to see who faces Mathai in the runoff.

Office No. 76: Alison Matsumoto Estrada, running as "Government Corruption Prosecutor," should be an easy win. She's got the LA Times endorsement as well as those of former DA Steve Cooley and current DA Jackie Lacey. But she faces part-time "Criminal Prosecutor" Helen Kim who, despite being utterly unqualified for anything other than her part-time duties, has over $800k of special interest money on hand to buy a seat on the bench.

Office No. 87: Steven Schriener, running as "Gang Homicide Prosecutor," is in a three way race with Andrew Stein, and accomplished criminal defense attorney running as "Gang Homicide Attorney," and totally unfit and unqualified Deputy City Attorney Tom Griego, who runs as a "Criminal Gang Prosecutor." The ballot titles should present uninformed voters with quite a challenge. It's anyone's guess who will be in the runoff.

Office No. 97: Teresa Magno, running as "Gang Murder Prosecutor" is pitted against Songhai "Sunny" Armstead, a Deputy City Attorney who believes African American voters should vote for her because of her race. It's a disgustingly ugly campaign strategy for anyone, let alone one who aspires to be a judge. Watch this race to see how the race card plays.

Office No. 107: Joan Chrostek, running as "Major Narcotics Prosecutor," perhaps a questionable ballot title given her civil forfeiture duties, is running against Emma Castro, a near-retirement age Commissioner. This race will test the relative strengths of ballot designations, as neither candidate has been noticeably active with their campaigns.

Office No. 117: Carol Najera is challenging incumbent Superior Court Judge James B. Pierce to teach him a lesson about being discourteous. A brave challenge, but one that rarely succeeds.

Now get out and vote!