|Judge Sztraicher wasted no time mounting a robust reelection campaign.|
Arbitrator/attorney Michael Ribons had previously taken out papers to run for Sztraicher's seat, and had told the Los Angeles Metropolitan News-Enterprise on January 25, 2016, that he had drawn Sztraicher's seat at random having been told that he had to 'pick a number' when he first filed his papers, and that he could change his selection to an open seat at a later time. Ribons later said he would not run against Sztraicher and would select an open seat.
Despite those apparent reassurances, Sztraicher was not convinced, noting on his Facebook campaign page that "… the proposed challenger has twice told the Metropolitan News that he does not intend to run against the seat I currently occupy. The first such statement was followed by his filing a declaration of intent on the very same seat. This action is in direct contradiction of the statement made to the press. Therefore, our campaign is now fully activated." he said.
Documents filed with the LA County Registrar/Recorder on February 10, 2016 confirmed that Ribons had indeed filed a Declaration of Intent to run for Sztraicher's seat, notwithstanding the prior assurances.
|Despite assurances on January 25, 2016, Ribons filed a Declaration of Intent |
to run against Judge Sztraicher on February 10, 2016
"The PAC Board has committed to raise $200,000 for Judge Sztraicher. The Board will not stand by silently when racist xenophobes challenge Latino judges based on the spelling of their last names." the Board said.
MABA-PAC's concerns, presumably shared by Sztraicher, was that Ribons' random run was likely a replay of the cynical strategy used in 2006 by Lynn D. Olson to defeat sitting Judge Dzintra Janavas. Olsen, a former "inactive status" attorney who ran a Manhattan Beach bagel bakery, unseated Janavas with 54% of the vote. Many saw Olson's challenge as distasteful, exploitative, and based solely on the vulnerability of "foreign sounding names" in elections.
But what Janavas lacked in 2006 was the robust support of a well-organized group. MABA-PAC's promise of $200,000 in campaign support was probably not nearly as worrisome for Ribons as was their loud widespread condemnation of what they believed was behind his strategy.
On March 3, 2016, Ribons filed nominating papers for Office Number 42, an open seat. The filing of nominating papers is, to all intents and purposes, irrevocable, and Ribons can no longer threaten to challenge Sztraicher and can only run for Office 42.
With no other challenger having previously filed papers for Sztraicher's seat, the race is effectively over, and Sztraicher will be reelected unopposed; and deservedly so.
If MABA-PAC and Judge Sztraicher were right about Ribons, the kudos then to them for removing this potentially ugly stain from the 2016 judicial elections. While it is unlikely that we will never again see "racist xenophobes" challenging incumbents with foreign sounding names, at least the strategy is clear; speak out against it early, loud and often.