The value of the LA Times endorsement is immeasurable in that it not only provides free national media coverage for the candidates, but it also lends credibility to their candidacies in way far more effective than slate mailers and yard signs. While not a game-changer in its own right, the Times' endorsements when combined with well managed campaigns and attractive ballot titles, should give all endorsees some degree of comfort in the run up to election day.
For the 3 sitting Judges who have been challenged; Judge James Kaddo (Office 60) Judge Ray Santana (Office 120) and Judge Kathryn Solorzano (Office 165), that headline is particularly apt - there will be finality to those races as there can only be one winner. The power of incumbency, coupled with the might of the Met-News and Times endorsements should be more than enough to see them all comfortably reelected.
However, for the 17 candidates in the 4 'open races,' (one where a sitting judge is not being challenged) the odds are against any candidate garnering the necessary 50% plus one vote to secure a victory on Tuesday. Therefore, a runoff between the two highest vote-getters is a virtual certainty in all 4 races.
But who are the two likely highest vote-getters in each race? We'll take an educated guess:
Deputy District Attorney Steven Schreiner holds the advantage of the LA Times endorsement, as well as the services of judicial campaign guru David Gould. Rival Debra Archuleta has run an aggressive campaign, and despite losing out on media endorsements and access to effective slate mail, is a formidable opponent. But for the late entry of Deputy District Attorney Paul Kim to the race, Schreiner could have won the race outright - Kim has an almost identical ballot title to Schreiner's. However Kim's candidacy, which lacks the finances to feature strongly in this race, will nevertheless likely erode Schreiner's lead to the point where a Schreiner-Archuleta runoff seems inevitable. It is also entirely possible that Archuleta may emerge from the Primary with more votes than Schreiner. However, any such lead will have to be put into context by combining Shreiner's votes with Kim's. Also in this race is attorney Jonathan Malek, however, his candidacy is unlikely to impact the results.
Despite missing out on the LA Times endorsement, Deputy District Attorney Efrain Matthew Aceves has a powerful ballot designation and a well financed campaign managed by David Gould. Aceves, however, faces stiff competition from LA Times endorsee Commissioner Cyndy Zuzga. In a straight fight between the two, Aceves' ballot designation would likely trump Zuzga's Times endorsement, as Gould's oft-cited prophecy, "Commissioners, in general do not necessarily do very well against D.A.s" has held true more often than not. However, MABA-PAC endorsed attorney Alicia Molina is also in this race, and although not seen as a winner, she could easily erode Aceves' and Zuzga's votes to the point where they will face each other in a November runoff, at which point Gould's prophecy will likely be proven true. Also in this race is attorney Michael Ribbons who will not be a factor.
Deputy District Attorney Susan Jung Townsend holds all the cards in this race; a well-funded campaign managed by Gould, the Times and Met-News endorsements, and a strong ballot title. Rival Deputy DA Javier Perez, despite losing out on media endorsements and the services of campaign strategist Gould, has a broadly supported campaign. Townsend and Perez are clearly the frontrunners in this race with Townsend, perhaps, having the edge. However, attorney Aaron Weissman and DDA Hubert Yun are also in this race. Weissman has grassroots support from the GOP, which will be worth a few points. Yun, despite not appearing to engage in any active campaigning beyond random sightings of yard signs, has a strong ballot title, also worth a few points. In all likelihood, it will be a Townsend - Perez runoff in November.
In the most crowded of the races, Deputy District Attorney David Berger faces four opponents. Berger (who edits this blog) has the advantage of the Met News and LA Times endorsements, a well funded campaign managed by Gould, and a strong ballot title. Deputy Attorney General Kim Nguyen was looking like a strong rival, enjoying the advice and influence of legendary big-league campaign strategist Parke Skelton. However, Nguyen's campaign has suffered some setbacks. At one point Nguyen looked like being the only female candidate in this race after Susan Jerich suddenly dropped out. However, that advantage dissipated equally suddenly when Deputy City Attorney Onica Valle Cole jumped in. Added to the mix was the loss of the LA Times endorsement, who said of Nguyen that she "could benefit from another few years of experience before taking the bench." Despite the setbacks, Nguyen has secured a slew of political endorsements and has an impressive campaign warchest.
It is, however, a very crowded race for Office 158. Unlike some of the other races, there are no 'deadwood' candidates - all appear to be seriously campaigning. Cole, who despite limited campaign finances, has successfully leveraged her strong ties to the community. Cole splits the female vote that otherwise belonged to Nguyen. Deputy DA Fred Mesropi splits the prosecutor vote and has a strong ballot title, but his late start on the campaign puts him at a disadvantage. Added to the mix the is the candidacy of GOP endorsed criminal defense attorney Naser Khoury, and it's not as easy to predict the two highest vote getters in this race compared to the others - in a five way race, all could conceivably poll somewhere within five points either side of 20% and the margins could be wafer thin at both ends of the scale.
Most experts believe that the benefit of the LA Times endorsement, coupled with a well planned campaign that has been active since January 2015, likely puts Berger into the runoff. Who else makes the runoff? Most believe that it will be between Mesropi and Nguyen; Mesropi because of his ballot title, and Nguyen because she has campaigned long and hard.
SO GET OUT AND VOTE!
The analysis provided above is an educated guess at best, and the high voter turnout expected for the Presidential Primary could change the analysis considerably.
This year, because of the candidacy of the editor, the Dragnet is not making any endorsements, so vote the way you think best.
In the interests of full disclosure, the Los Angeles Dragnet is edited by David Berger. Any and all opinions expressed here are personal and are not reflective of any opinion, position or view of the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office.