District attorney’s runoff offers two schools of thought
The long road for the Los Angeles County District Attorney position is winding down for candidates Jackie Lacey and Alan Jackson. The two contenders have been campaigning since last year and made it through their primary races and are now days away from facing off in the Nov. 6 election.
Each candidate brings a different background and set of experiences to the position, as Jackson has spent the majority of his career as a prosecutor while Lacey has spent over a decade working on the managerial side of the Los Angeles District Attorney‚Äôs office.
As a gang prosecutor, Jackson worked in the DA‚Äôs office for 17 years and prosecuted more than 60 felony cases. According to his campaign website, Jackson aims to cut down on violent crime by targeting gangs and other violent offenders, stop public corruption by prosecuting public officials who ‚Äúbreak the law and abuse the public trust‚ÄĚ and reduce crime through education. He also highlights the need to modernize the DA‚Äôs office by utilizing new technologies.
‚ÄúLet‚Äôs put a prosecutor in the prosecutor‚Äôs office, not a politician,‚ÄĚ Jackson said in an interview with KRLA‚Äôs Heidi Harris. ‚ÄúWe can‚Äôt handcuff our way out of the crime problem. We have to have an understanding that there‚Äôs more that we can do in the prosecutor‚Äôs office ‚Ä¶ to try and stop crime before it starts.‚ÄĚ
Endorsements for Jackson largely come from different law enforcement agencies, including the Inglewood Police Association and the Pasadena Police Officers‚Äô Association, but also include the Los Angeles Daily News, former Mayor Richard Riordan and Supervisor Don Knabe, among others.
Lacey, on the other hand, comes with managerial experience in addition to her experience as a prosecutor. She is the current chief deputy district attorney in the DA‚Äôs office and has worked on the office‚Äôs managerial team for over a decade; on the team, she has reviewed evidence in death penalty cases and has overseen cases involving public corruption and police misconduct, among other crimes. Lacey said she plans to draw on her experience as a prosecutor and administrator if elected.
‚ÄúI‚Äôve prosecuted everything from code enforcement cases to drug cases to murder cases to child molestation cases,‚ÄĚ Lacey said in a campaign video. ‚ÄúThe experience[s] I‚Äôve had ‚Ä¶ have given me a unique experience, if you will, and have really prepared me to assume the role of district attorney.‚ÄĚ
If Lacey wins the election, she will not only be the first black woman, but the first woman to serve as district attorney in Los Angeles. She is endorsed by current District Attorney Steve Cooley, L.A. County Sheriff Lee Baca, the L.A. County Democratic Party, the Republican National Hispanic Assembly and the Los Angeles Times, among others.
Olu Orange, an adjunct associate professor of political science and the head coach of USC‚Äôs mock trial team, said each candidate needs to have a basic understanding that the role of the DA is to rehabilitate ‚ÄĒ not punish ‚ÄĒ criminals. Orange said he doesn‚Äôt think either candidate understands this role at this point in the election.
‚ÄúOne of the reasons that criminal justice system is so heavily burdened is that the focus is not on rehabilitating and integrating [criminals] back into society and the tax base, but has been refocused on punishment,‚ÄĚ Orange said. ‚ÄúI‚Äôm looking to see if the DA candidates understand that the reason so many people are locked up is because their office wants to lock them up, sometimes unnecessarily.‚ÄĚ
The two candidates are vying for the spot being vacated by Cooley, who has spent three consecutive terms in office since 2000. This year‚Äôs race is the first in 48 years without an incumbent running, according to ABC 7 news.
The job of the district attorney is to prosecute alleged criminals in the L.A. district court system on behalf of the people, according to the Los Angeles District Attorney‚Äôs website. The Los Angeles DA prosecutes crimes from Antelope Valley to Long Beach and from Pomona to Malibu.
Los Angeles has the largest local prosecutor‚Äôs office in the country ‚ÄĒ in a typical year, the DA‚Äôs office prosecutes 60,000 felonies and 130,000 misdemeanors, according to the Los Angeles District Attorney‚Äôs website.
Nov. 6 won‚Äôt be the first time Jackson and Lacey have gone head to head. The candidates already faced each other for the DA position in California‚Äôs preliminary election on June 5. Since none of the six candidates received at least 50 percent of the popular vote in the primary, Lacey and Jackson ‚ÄĒ the top two candidates ‚ÄĒ are set to square off again in the November election.
The two beat out John Breault, Bobby Grace, Danette Meyers and Carmen Trutanich for the position in the runoff. Lacey received 31.95 percent of the popular vote and Jackson received 23.69 percent.
Prior to the election, the candidates squared off in multiple debates. The May 29 debate before the primary featured five of the six candidates running at the time, while the August and September debates only featured Jackson and Lacey.
The August debate revealed a major difference between the two candidates in regards to their experience relevant to the DA position. Jackson argued that Lacey has assumed too much of an administrative role to work as the DA ‚ÄĒ she hasn‚Äôt worked in the courtroom for approximately a decade. Lacey countered that her role in management has given her a unique perspective that she would bring to the courtroom.
Aside from their differing backgrounds, the two candidates also clash on some of the major issues in the upcoming election. A primary source of contention is Proposition 36, or the three strikes reform act. California currently allows a life sentence in prison after a defendant gets ‚Äúthree strikes,‚ÄĚ or is arrested three times. If passed, Prop. 36 would limit the potential for a life sentence to only serious or violent offenses. Lacey supports the measure, while Jackson opposes it.
The candidates agree on some issues, though: Both oppose banning the death penalty, and both also say they will continue to prosecute marijuana dispensaries even if the city‚Äôs ban on the clinics is reversed.
Though the position isn‚Äôt as prominent an election as other offices, Orange said that it is just as important for students to pay attention to what is happening in the district attorney‚Äôs office, as it will affect how crimes on campus are prosecuted.
‚ÄúAnytime a student is accused of a crime, depending on what level of crime, there‚Äôs likelihood of involvement from someone from the DA‚Äôs office,‚ÄĚ Orange explained. ‚ÄúThis determines how aggressively these crimes are prosecuted on campus [and] to an extent, may determine how often crimes are committed.‚ÄĚ
Chelsea Stone contributed to this report.