The preliminary results of the 2016 Primary Elections yielded a mixed bag of relief, surprise and disappointment. In the relief department, all three sitting judges demolished their opponents with crushing defeats. Judges Kaddo, Santana and Solorzano were all returned to office for six-year terms.
In the four open seats, the results provided as much surprise as inevitable disappointment. As expected there were no outright winners in these races; the likelihood of any single candidate achieving the necessary 50% plus one vote was slim to none in all four races. The top two vote-getters in each race will face off in the November 8, 2016 General Election.
And so to the races:
OFFICE No. 11
Runoff: Archuleta v. Schreiner - Violent Crimes Prosecutor v. Gang Homicide Prosecutor
Although a runoff between bitter rivals Deputy District Attorneys Debra Archuleta and Steven Schreiner was widely expected, the big surprise here was the 21 point lead that Archuleta netted over Schreiner. Indeed, equally unexpected was that Archuleta came within 2.5% of winning the race outright.
While the result must be a disappointment to Schreiner, he can take some solace from the fact that his vote was split by the presence of late entrant Deputy DA Paul Kim on the ballot. Both Schreiner and Kim had virtually identical ballot titles, and undoubtedly, Kim split Schreiner's vote. Had Kim stayed out of the race Schreiner could have been expected to have netted 40.96%, however that still leaves him 8 points behind Archuleta.
Many experts attribute Archuleta's success to her having what appears to be three essential attributes in this year's election cycle; Gender, Occupation, and Race. First, the prospect of electing a female President is clearly engaging female voters who, unsurprisingly, are also favoring female candidates in other races. Second, voters' historic support of prosecutors in judicial elections seems to be holding true, and third, the Latino community are increasingly more engaged in the electoral process. Thus a female, Latino prosecutor makes for a formidable candidate in this election cycle.
Baring some major upset, Archuleta looks certain to benefit from the dynamics of the Presidential election in November.
OFFICE No. 42
Runoff: Molina v. Aceves - Domestic Violence Attorney v. Child Molestation Prosecutor
There were big surprises and upsets in this race.
First, perhaps, is that Deputy District Attorney Efrain Matthew Aceves, running with the historically powerful ballot designation "Child Molestation Prosecutor," has ended up in second place.
Second is that Alicia Molina, previously not considered to be a serious threat to a likely Aceves-Zuzga runoff, has ended up in first place.
Third, was that Superior Commissioner Cyndy Zuzga was eliminated from the runoff.
Molina's surprise success looks like being due to her having the same combination of factors as seen with Debra Archuleta; she is female, Latino, and also has a ballot title that sounds prosecutorial - "Domestic Violence Attorney."
Molina also enjoys support from MABA-PAC, the Mexican American Bar Association's Political Action Committee, which will likely redouble it's efforts in support of Molina in the runoff. Although there has been some criticism of Molina's ballot title being misleading (she is more properly associated with immigration law than domestic violence), the reality is that there might be little to be gained in a costly legal challenge, as Molina will likely fare just as well as an "Immigration Attorney" ballot title given the dynamics of the runoff.
All in all, Molina looks set to present a formidable challenge in November, and a race that once seemed certain to favor Aceves, now looks hard to call.
Runoff: Townsend v. Perez - Criminal Fraud Prosecutor v. Supervising Criminal Prosecutor
No big surprises here, nor any huge disappointments. Deputy District Attorneys Susan Jung Townsend and Javier Perez were expected to be in the runoff, and they are. It was equally certain that late entrant and lackadaisical candidate Hubert Yun would be eliminated, as he was. However, Yun's candidacy has caused many to wonder the true nature of Yun's campaign. He does not appear to have been actively campaigning having missed all candidate forums, and aside from having a few randomly placed yard signs, did little to dispel the belief that he was nothing more than a name on the ballot. So was he campaigning to be a winner, or was he simply on the ballot to be a spoiler?
If Yun intended to be a spoiler, he certainly succeed in that regard. He succeeded in spiting the pro-prosecutor vote thereby denying both Townsend and Perez votes. However, he also split the Asian vote, hurting Townsend more than Perez. The unanswered question is why?
The sole GOP candidate in this race, Aaron Weissman, is probably disappointed that Republicans appeared to stay home on election day. As a result Weissman placed last, albeit with a respectable 14.71% of the vote.
The November runoff looks certain to favor female prosecutors, suggesting that Townsend will likely maintain the narrow lead she has over Perez.
OFFICE No. 158
Runoff: Berger v. Nguyen - Violent Crimes Prosecutor v. Deputy Attorney General
Described by experts as the hardest of the races to predict, most nevertheless agreed that Deputy District Attorney David Berger (the editor of this Blog) would be in the runoff. If there was a surprise here, it is that Deputy Attorney General Kim Nguyen emerged as the challenger in the runoff, rather than late entrant and fellow Deputy DA Fred Mesropi. The once prized and highly rated 'Child Molestation Prosecutor' ballot title had promised to place Mesropi high in the rankings, perhaps even in first place. However, in this election cycle it failed to deliver, just as it did for Aceves in Office No. 42.
Although Nguyen netted at 34.49% of the vote, six points ahead of Berger, that lead is somewhat illusory given that Mesropi clearly split Berger's vote. Indeed, if Mesropi's 17.25% is added to Berger's 28.14%, the resultant 45.39% perhaps represents a more accurate picture of this race; it is not unreasonable to expect voters attracted by Mesropi's ballot title to be easy converts to Berger, who ran with the ballot title 'Violent Crimes Prosecutor.'
As to the 12.21% garnered by Naser Khoury, the sole GOP candidate in this race, those votes seem more likely to go towards a candidate with a prosecutorial ballot title if historical data holds true. Deputy City Attorney Onica Valle Cole, another late entrant, garnered almost 8% of the vote, attributable as much to her gender as her ballot title, 'Prosecutor,' suggesting that her vote will split evenly between the runoff candidates.
Unlike the three other judicial races in the November runoff, this is the only one featuring a prosecutor against a non prosecutor. Although prosecutors generally do better than their opponents in the high-voter turnout General Election, Nguyen could benefit from being the only non-prosecutor on the ballot. With that said, however, data from the primary suggests voters still favor prosecutors in judicial elections.