Are There NO Politically Ambitious Leading Democratic Prosecuting Attorneys in Orange County?


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That question is rhetorical: of course there are politically ambitious leading Democratic attorneys in Orange County.  But that question gives rise to a second one: why aren’t any of them apparently thinking about running for the office of Orange County District Attorney?

Spitzer, Donkey, Rackauckas

Could a Donkey win the OC District Attorney’s races against Todd Spiter (at left) and Tony Rackauckas (at right)? Yes, it’s hard to assess their chances, but let’s not be stubborn! about it!

One argument may be that “they wouldn’t be able to win.”  I beg to differ.  The two leading Republican candidates — incumbent Tony Rackauckas and Supervisor Todd Spitzer — both have experience, prominence, and the prospect of substantial war chests.  But, as I’ll note below, their flaws are as great as their strengths.

Vern recently gave a decent start to an accounting of the case against T-Rack in this comment:

He’s just wasted $4 million of OC taxpayers’ money, over 4 years, defending a blatantly unconstitutional gang injunction in the City of Orange, having just lost in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, and is still considering taking it further … a case I hope to finish writing about today.

Also, from Voice of OC: “In September, Rackauckas asked a Superior Court judge to dismiss all charges against a Saudi Arabian princess living in Irvine who had been accused by his office of human trafficking. Rackauckas made the request after determining the “evidence cannot support” the allegations, according to a story in The Orange County Register.

Last fall, a panel of Orange County Superior Court judges ruled the county was illegally banning registered sex offenders from parks because it was preempting state law and creating a confusing patchwork of local restrictions.”

[Regarding the Dr. Esparza case], unless our DA has some amazing new evidence none of us have yet guessed at, this’ll just be one more T-Rack Faceplant. Which he won’t mind much, it’s OUR money, and as long as he’s making a show of being harsh on (generally) dark and powerless people, he’ll stay popular with his base.

And meanwhile he will NEVER go after a well-connected politician (with the sole exception of one who lures way too many female underlings into his office for way too many years and masturbates in front of them), OR brutal cops (with the sole exception of if six of you are caught on videotape beating a white, mentally ill, homeless man to death with taser blows to the face, and HIS dad’s a retired cop.)

Oooh, and there’s also this from 2010:

So much bullshit going on, and only a handful of us plucky bloggers paying any f-ng attention.

T-Rack’s whitewash investigation of the Fair Board’s miscreance was notable thus: His “investigators” spoke to everyone on the Board except for the one guy who strenuously disagreed with all their maneuvers to buy the Fair for themselves: Dave Padilla. They conveniently ignored the one guy who would have spilled everything.

Another thing you should have brought up yesterday, Todd Spitzer, in your list of T-Rack whitewashes and miscellaneous crimes – although it pales in comparison to the innocent folks he has kept in jail for years knowing they were innocent, just to avoid embarrassment.

I’ve tried to dub T-Rack – and I wish this were catchier – the “As-Good-As-No-DA DA.”

And those leave out any specific reference to the whole “investigating his close associate now-former Public Guardian John Williams” thing, about which Vern has also written a thing or two.

I seem to recall that Vern has also dragged Spitzer over the coals a time or two, but I can’t find them as easily. Certainly some of is has been over appearing everywhere to give press conferences whenever even conceivably possible; another recent complaint has been Spitzer’s weird and indefensible position on the 405 Toll Roads — combined with his appearing to appear simultaneously as both a particle and a wave on both sides of the issue.

Here — I’ll just reserve a place for Vern to add more Spitzer critiques if he wishes, in the interest of balance.

VERN’S TODD BOX.

Furthermore, the two Republican frontrunniers and their supporters truly seem to hate each other.  To paraphrase: Spitzer’s supporters call Rackauckas a corrupt crony; Rackauckas’s supporters call Spitzer a liberal loose cannon.  (And Spitzer does seem like a liberal.  And then like a conservative.  And then a moderate — then a libertarian — and then a conservative again.  All within about thirty seconds.)  Spitzer was once Rackauckas’s heir-apparent in the DA’s office; then he crossed his boss and got fired.  If you really need more on this, grab your scuba gear and dive in here.

Meanwhile, Democrats have a solid bloc of support in OC — I think that most of us like the idea of having a DA who would actually treat significant Republican corruption as seriously as he does minor blemishes on Democrats — and independents may be swayed by a “good government, fairness to all” campaign.  That makes a majority if it can be turned out — but there’s no reason to think that some Republicans wouldn’t join the bandwagon as well.

Here’s why.  It’s not at all unlikely that if Rackauckas made it into a runoff (presuming no 50% majority in the primary, which would be a safe bet with three legitimate candidates) against a moderate to conservative Democrat, he’d have a hard time winning over Spitzer’s supporters.  And if Spitzer successfully dislodged Rackauckas from such a runoff — well, I think that there would be a lot of T-Rack partisans who wouldn’t mind sitting out four years of a Democratic Administration rather than see Spitzer unleashing spitfires of holy hell as DA.

In other words, a prominent, non-ideological, well-heeled Democrat with decent grounding in criminal law could likely surpass the 33.33 needed to make a runoff.  (I probably don’t even need to say this, but I am not there referring to myself.  I’m more of a politico than a prosecutorio.)  And if they could make a runoff, they could conceivably win.

I’ve presented this scenario to a few of my friends in Democratic circles.  (And here, I’d like to instruct Paul Lucas to either stop reading this entirely or to grab a barf bucket.  You know what’s coming here, Paul.)  On hearing the inquiry, several people have immediately spit out the same name: termed-out State Senator Lou Correa.  The thought fills me with some dismay — Correa’s at his conservative worst when it comes to criminal justice issues, where if he could he’d probably be happy to turn the entire Great Park into a maximum security prison — but that is only part of the story.  Rackauckas is no better.  As for Spitzer, no one has any idea what he might do as DA — other than to further his plans to ascend to yet higher office, and that’s not likely to mean throttling down marijuana busts and gang injunctions.

On the whole, Correa might satisfy the two main criteria that Democrats and No Party Preference voters would likely express.  He’d have a big advantage over Rackauckas if he’d be willing to investigate corruption from all sides, rather than being an almost guaranteed “will not be interested” when the problem identified involves a conservative Republican.  (If the DA would like examples, I suppose that I could assemble some — but he won’t like it.)  And, unlike Spitzer, he wouldn’t be unpredictable, mercurial, and (to use a word that several people have said to me) even a little frightening in terms of what he might do in office to score points with the public.

You want honesty and stolidity in a District Attorney.  I have my differences with Sen. Correa, but he seems to get decent marks in these areas.  And that could be enough to get him elected.

Correa — who has been raising money for a 2018 Attorney General race (perhaps only because you have to put something on the form if you want people to raise funds) though — may have other plans for 2014.  I hear all sorts of wild things — Board of Equalization, waiting to run for Supervisor if Janet Nguyen beats Jose Solorio, some others I won’t mention because I think that people may be pulling my leg.  This leads me to believe that no one outside of his inner circle really knows his upcoming plans.  If this was his chosen path, though, I don’t think another Democrat would get in the way.

Let’s presume, though, that Correa doesn’t run.  Are their other Democrats — or even independents that Democrats could get behind as an alternative to the two announced candidates — who might consider the race?  A brief review of some of the places where one might expect to find such candidates suggests so.  Fundraising would probably not be an extreme problem; while Spitzer has been reaching out to Democrats — again, if he wants details made public, I suppose I can provide them — he’s not someone who’d clearly match the criteria I listed above.

I’m not going to mention any of the names that jumped out at me here because I don’t want to create problems for anyone.  But I do want to open the conversation of whether there are non-ideological, honest, and stolid candidates out there who might make this a more interesting (and less dismal race.)  I’m probably not the guy that they’d want to talk to — the DPOC’s Chair or Executive Director would be a better choice for most of them — but I’d certainly like to see other people’s thoughts.  (Two of the people I’d most like to hear from are Scott Moxley and Matt Coker at the Weekly, but I’m not going to call them.  Awkward, you know.  You readers can let them know that I’m interested.)

While I think I know who’d get my vote if push came to shove in a two-person “Todd and Tony” race, right now the OC District Attorney race looks pretty dismal to me.  In a county with the population of Iowa and the wealth of a small nation it seems unlikely to me that it has to be that way.

So let’s start that conversation, shall we?  (Feel free to start it in your own private small groups; just let me know when you’re done!)


About Greg Diamond

Prolix worker's rights and government accountability attorney and General Counsel of CATER. His anti-corruption work in Anaheim infuriated the Building Trades and Teamsters in spring 2014, leading them to work with the Democratic Party of Orange County Chair and other co-conspirators (who had long detested the internal oversight his presence provided) to remove him from the position of DPOC North Vice Chair of in violation of party rules and any semblance of due process. He also runs for office sometimes. Unless otherwise specifically stated, none of his writings prior to that lawless putsch ever spoke for the Democratic Party at the local, county, state, national, or galactic level. He tries to either suppress or openly acknowledge his partisan, issue, ideological, and "good government" biases in most of his writing here. If you have a question about any particular writing, just ask him about it and (unless you are an pseudonymous troll) he will probably answer you at painful length. He lives in Beautiful Bountiful Brea, but while he may brag about it he generally doesn't blog about it. A family member works as a campaign treasurer for candidates including Wendy Gabriella in AD-73; he doesn't directly profit from that relatively small compensation and it doesn't affect his coverage. He does advise some campaigns informally and (except where noted) without compensation.