Tuesday, June 14, 2016

2016 Judicial Elections; Primary Postmortem - Incumbents Win Handily, Upsets/Surprises Abound in Open Seats

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.
There had been concerns among LA County Superior Court bench officers that the surprise 2014 defeat of incumbent Judge James B. Pierce had made them vulnerable to challenge. However the results of the June 2016 primary will not only have restored confidence in the power of incumbency, but will also have deterred long-shot challengers like Baghadassarian and Ibisi.

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:

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.

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.



Anonymous said...

I don't know who all the "experts" are that you keep citing with regards to your electoral prospects, but maybe you need to find some new ones. And since Nguyen finished first (her lead is up to 7% now and growing) doesn't that make you the "challenger."

Anonymous said...

Campaign consultant Gould failed to deliver as he promised. He predicted that Aceves would win outright and Berger would finish in first. Neither happened. In fact, of the four races without a sitting judge he finished 1/4. Not very good for somewhat who touts himself as the guru of judicial campaigns. Lets hope he shares your November predictions based on a false premise, so we can finally see him for what he is--a total rip off to district attorneys.

Anonymous said...

I don't mean to be sexist, but I think all the female candidates will win in November. The Hillary #HerStory movement is unlike anything we've ever seen in politics before.

Anonymous said...

Berger's analysis of his race is flawed. Nguyen has the County Federation of Labor behind her - that's 2 million members strong, all solid democratic voters. Nobody has ever lost with the County Fed behind them. Game over.

Anonymous said...

Your analysis is about as accurate as always, which is not at all. That picture of you in the MetNews told the whole story. Shock and terror all in one look, although one would think you are used to being wrong and losing elections by now.

The only real question is what kind of dirty crap you will pull in the runoff. What will be your desperation move?

Anonymous said...

Well some things never change. The haters are in full battle mode, it's a Carmen and the Clowns lovefest! For the most part, Berger is on the money, and Schreiner is in deep trouble with Archuleta almost winning it in the primary, and Aceves the same being upstaged by Molina. But that's the way it is. The Townsend-Perez race is close, and at the end of the day Townsend probably wins based on the demographics. Ngyuen's people must be worried based on the earlier comments, and yeah, reality is 65% did not vote for her, and yeah, Mesropi voters go to Berger.

Anonymous said...

@8:09Am County Fed also backed Schreiner and Aceves.

Anonymous said...

And 72% didn't voter for Berger. That's the kind of logic that got you a distant second place.

Keep telling yourself all the people who didn't vote for you are yours. All your other analysis have been so spot on, why not that too?

Anonymous said...

Good to see the Dragnet back in action! These otherwise boring judicial races are much more entertaining when we can see the behind the scenes bickering. Forget the percentages of who voted for who and why. The November election is a two horse race and office 158 is the only one where there's a clear distinction between the candidates. Nguyen looks good in my analysis, because he's the only one who isn't a prosecutor. By the time voters have gone through 11, 42 and 84 and had to pick between which is the 'baddest' prosecutor, they will probably have had enough of prosecutors and be more inclined to vote for Nguyen. Save your money for another Bentley Berger. You have no chance.

Anonymous said...

More votes counted. Nguyen's lead continues to grow. She is now up by 95,000 votes and 7.1%.

Anonymous said...

6:01PM More votes counted - prosecutors picked up 124,557 votes. Trending for prosecutors.

Anonymous said...

@9:18AM "Dirty crap?" Really? Is it 'dirty crap' to point out that in the race for Office 158 there's one candidate who was 20 years of experience trying cases, and one who has NEVER TRIED A SINGLE CASE IN THEIR ENTIRE CAREER, never stepped foot inside a courtroom as an advocate, never questioned a witness, never cross-examined a witness, never argued a suppression motion, never argued a motion to dismiss, never presented an opening statement, never presented a closing argument, and never conducted a preliminary hearing.

Anonymous said...

@11:59, What exactly will be Berger's make believe ballot designation? Or should I say ballot desperation? And yes, a Harvard educated attorney who argued in front of the CA Supreme Court before she was 30 and was the writs attorney for the CA Appellate Court is clearly less qualified than some old hack who went to night law school and has failed his way to a courtroom DA. Good point there.

Anonymous said...

@11:59PM hit a bit of a raw nerve with @2:52PM it seems. Ms. Nguyen's lack of trial experience is a fact but it's no big deal, Governor Brown routinely appoints similarly inexperienced attorneys to the bench, and has a particular fondness and preference for Harvard graduates. So rather than sling mud at Berger who actually does try cases and prosecutes violent criminals, why don't you explain why the Governor rejected Ms. Nguyen's application?

Anonymous said...

Desperation is right. Heard the interview condemning Judge Perskey's decision to grant probation in that rape case. Disgusting.

Unknown said...

Nguyen is now 100,000 votes ahead, and the margin keeps growing. Voters want a Well Qualified judge apparently.

Anonymous said...

Unknown, "Nguyen is now 100,000 votes ahead." Really? According to the LA County Registrar/Recorder's website, the latest canvas gives Nguyen 477,645 votes, and Berger 380,483. That's a difference of 97,162 votes. Of course details like that don't matter to lawyers inexperienced in the way juries react to false misleading statements. Voters are pretty much the same. Check your facts, be more careful. Big picture, of course, is that the three prosecutors in this race now have 723,213 votes to the Appellate Attorney's 477,645. In the runoff there's only one prosecutor for voters to choose, and of course only one Appellate Attorney. Not much reason to think that that ratio is going to change in the runoff.

Anonymous said...

11:01AM is correct, at least on the figures, here's a link check for yourself. Pretty stupid, misrepresenting a fact that can easily be checked.

Unknown said...

My, what pedantry. Nguyen is beating Berger by more than 10% in votes counted since 6/7. Her lead has grown from 68000 to 99000. There are about 150000 more votes to count. So yes, Nguyen's margin is over 100000 votes. Well over, unless Berger can somehow, magically, win the remaining votes.

Arguing that Berger will get 100% of the "prosecutor" vote is just plain stupid. Before the primary Berger argued that Nguyen would finish 2nd or 3rd (behind him of course) because Cole would split women with her. Now he says that he will get all of the Cole vote. The vote will split up, but Berger will have a much steeper hill to climb since he is over 100,000 votes behind.

Anonymous said...

@11:01 Ha Ha! Hang your hat on that one, for sure. Just don't clean out your desk on Nov. 8th, because you're going back to work the next day, loser. But you will be able at least to come back and re-read all your extraordinarily accurate predictions.

Oh, and avert your eyes from the fact that of the candidates losing ground, 2 out of 3 have "prosecutor" in their title. Also, i wouldn't worry about having twice as many voters and a higher number of asian and women voters in November. Surely they will choose whatever dragon-slayer made up designation you select for yourself.


Anonymous said...

KPCC reported that there are still around 174k votes in LA County to be counted. Latest count released by the County Registrar shows pretty much the same trend as at the beginning, with prosecutor vote way ahead, and Nguyen still does not have the 100k lead claimed on 6/22. BTW, you may want to check that claim about being the youngest attorney ever to appear before the California Supreme Court. I searched the CA Sup Court website and could not find Nguyen mentioned anywhere.

Anonymous said...

@9:43 In multi candidate races, the one who has the most votes in the primary is not necessarily the victor in the runoff. That's because a very high majority of primary voters did not find the candidate appealing. Instead they voted for other candidates all of whom had a quality they appreciate. Like prosecutors with experience.

Anonymous said...

@2:38PM Did you read the recent LA Times article on the abuse of ballot titles? They are not making this stuff up. These bogus misleading ballot titles win the day time after time. Anyone who prosecutes hate crimes and sex crimes is probably unbeatable.

Anonymous said...

@3:47PM I think you are wrong about Nguyen being the youngest attorney to appear before the California Supreme Court. @2:52PM claimed Nguyen was 'under 30' which while certainly young, is not the youngest. I cannot find any record of Nguyen's argument, but if it was nine years ago, then maybe they didn't keep such good records. I have no reason to believe that Nguyen would deliberately lie about this.

Unknown said...

101,895. and counting.