Less than 20 percent of LA County voters turned out for the historic election Tuesday — the first open primary, the first in decades with fair legislative districts — but there were a few positive signs.
The king of political musical chairs, indicted felon Richard Alarcon, finished far back in second place in the 39th District Assembly race and will have a hard time overcoming leaad of CSUN Professor Raul Bocanegra — who has the backing of the Democratic Party — even if the LA City Councilman is able to stay out of jail until November.
Then, there’s the flop in the 56th Assembly District of Tom Calderon whose brothers Charles and Ron have played musical chairs in the Assembly and Senate for a couple decades in the Gateway Cities and San Gabriel Valley. Tom finished third to Republican Patricia A. Kotze-Ramos and City of Bell political reformer Cristina Garcia who is heavily favored in the Democratic dominated district.
But nothing quite compares with the humiliating defeat of media-declared front-runner Carmen Trutanich in the race to succeed Steve Cooley as District Attorney.
Trutanich faced five challengers — all county prosecutors who had never run for office and had no name recognition — and had as much money as they had combined thanks to his support from lobbyists like John Ek, who kicked off his fund-raising drive last year; virtually every union and their boss of bosses, Maria Elena Durzao, and civic and political leaders like former Mayor Richard Riordan, Sheriff Lee Baca and Councilman and wannabe Controller Dennis Zine.
As KPCC’s Frank Stolze and LA Weekly’s Gene Maddaus recorded Trutanich’s reaction to defeat, he took it about as well as Richard Nixon in 1960, suggesting we won’t have him to kick around much longer since he no chance of winning a second term as City Attorney given the negativity he has generated over his performance in office.
The election Tuesday was an extraordinary repudiation of a politician who was expected to win the election outright with more than 50 percent of the vote and instead wound up with just 22 percent compared to Chief Deputy DA Jackie Lacey’s 32 percent and Deputy DA Alan Jackson’s 24 percent.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more vitriolic negative campaign launched against anyone. I don’t understand it,” Trutanich said at what was supposed to be a victory party, according to a tweet from Stolze.
It was a media conspiracy against him, a “major league onslaught,” Trutanich told supporters at 1 a.m. the Croatian American Club of San Pedro, according to Maddaus.
“Barack Obama is getting hammered right now,” Trutanich said. “I think the negative campaign against me is worse.”
“I don’t know what we did wrong in terms of running the city of L.A. There’s absolutely no corruption in the city of Los Angeles, as far as the city attorney’s office goes. They hit me on street artists. I still think of it as graffiti. Obviously the marijuana crowd came out… We’ve done everything properly. There’s no shame in what we’ve done. Negative campaigns work.”
Trutanich campaign consultant John Shallman also took no responsibility for the debacle, declaring the media ganged up on his candidate from the moment the campaign was formally launched in February.
“They had a pretty nice trap set, and it’s been negative ever since,” said Shallman. “We counted 42 negative articles … It was a constant barrage of negative press.”
Say what? A trap was set, a conspiracy by the media and community activists who got Trutanich elected City Attorney in 2009 because he promised to stand up for the people against City Hall’s corruption and see his mission through a second term?
Jackson’s political consultant John Thomas — who worked on Trutanich’s City Attorney campaign and felt betrayed like so many us who backed him — said in a statement:
“The Jackson campaign took on Carmen Trutanich and saved the people of Los Angeles County from a politician who was more concerned about winning the next office instead of winning the next case. We were outraised, outspent and outsized by the City Attorney, yet we prevailed because voters clearly want a modern prosecutor not a politician.”
Lacey — who would be the first woman and first African-American elected DA in Los Angeles — told Daily News county reporter Christina Villacorte how she was “very, very surprised but overjoyed.”
“I think that when you read stories about how someone is a front-runner because of name recognition, you maybe take it as gospel,” Lacey said in a phone interview. ”We’re back to the Meg Whitman story, which shows you that money doesn’t buy elections.”
At least in this and a few other cases, that was true on Tuesday.
Hopefully, whoever wins the DA race and all the other elections will take the Trutanich lesson to heart and stay true to what they promised voters, true to who they are and what they say they stand for.