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Politics

The 5 Biggest Losers From Carmen Trutanich's D.A. Debacle (Other Than Trutanich)

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Fri, Jun 8, 2012 at 4:36 PM

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Carmen Trutanich
The county updated its vote tally this afternoon, and it confirmed what we already knew: Carmen Trutanich crashed and burned on Tuesday night. With 59,000 extra ballots counted, Trutanich's margin of defeat is unchanged. He's still in third by 8,000 votes, and only 117,000 votes remain to be counted.

He has yet to concede, but it seems certain that Trutanich will not be the next L.A. County district attorney. Though he out-raised and outspent his opponents 2.5-to-1, the voters apparently decided he already has more power than he can handle. At the moment, it looks like he'll face a tough fight even to win re-election as L.A. city attorney.

With a disaster of that magnitude, there is bound to be collateral damage. John Shallman, his campaign consultant, will endure a fair amount criticism. But aside from him, here are five more people who put their chips on Nuch, and lost big.


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Mario Trujillo
1. Mario Trujillo

Back in March, prosecutor Mario Trujillo looked like Trutanich's most formidable opponent. He had raised more than $400,000, putting him second only to Trutanich in fundraising. He had a top-flight consultant, and as the only Latino in the race, he had a solid base of support.

Then, for reasons that have yet to be fully explained, he dropped out of the campaign just before the filing deadline and endorsed Trutanich. He cited a health scare, but the real reasons seem to be a bit more obscure than that. In any case, had Trutanich won, he would have been well positioned to take any job he wanted in the D.A.'s office.

Now, he's persona non grata. Whether Jackie Lacey or Alan Jackson wins the runoff in November, Trujillo's support for Trutanich won't be soon forgotten. Worse yet, had Trujillo stayed in the race, he could well have made the runoff, and would have stood a decent chance of winning it all in November as the "liberal alternative" to Lacey or Jackson. Epic misplay.

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Maria Elena Durazo, leader of the L.A. County Federation of Labor
2. The L.A. County Federation of Labor

As a private attorney, Trutanich helped a trash hauling company fight off the Teamsters in a unionization campaign. Trutanich accused the union of trying to "strong arm" the company's employees. As city attorney, he alienated the City Attorneys Association and threatened to jail protesters who blocked the streets in Westwood in support of the DREAM Act.

Not exactly the second coming of Cesar Chavez. And yet, in February, the L.A. County Federation of Labor endorsed Trutanich. The Fed didn't wait for the Association of Deputy District Attorneys, one of its member unions, to weigh in on the choice. (When the ADDA did endorse, they went with Danette Meyers.)

Whatever the Fed's reasons, they had little to do with Trutanich's record on labor issues. More likely, they backed him because he's a powerful figure at L.A. City Hall and they want him in their corner. (Radio hosts John & Ken also alleged repeatedly that the Fed endorsed Trutanich because of his recent support for drivers licenses for illegal immigrants, and his support of amending the LAPD's impound policy in favor of unlicensed drivers.)

The Fed never put resources into the race, so this wasn't a true test of its election clout. Nevertheless, every time the Fed backs a loser, it becomes just a little less intimidating.

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Sheriff Lee Baca
3. Lee Baca

When D.A. Steve Cooley abandoned Trutanich in late 2010, Sheriff Lee Baca stood by his side. Baca helped him raise money, and vouched for him in Trutanich's campaign video. (Baca was later edited out, after it was reported that he had illegally endorsed a political candidate while wearing his uniform.)

At Trutanich's "victory party" on Tuesday night, Baca delivered fulsome praise that seemed to have only the loosest connection to reality: "He is unbelievably sensitive to all people," Baca said. "He's authentic. He's real. He's close to society."

All that proved is that Baca himself is increasingly out of touch. Baca has been under fire over the last year for a series of abuses and scandals within the Sheriff's Department. If that ever rises to the level of criminal corruption, he'll need a friend in the D.A.'s office. Had Trutanich been elected, he would have had that. Now, that's not so certain.

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Jerry Brown: Ad aspera per astra
4. Gov. Jerry Brown

It's not clear what Gov. Jerry Brown and Carmen Trutanich have in common other than a mutual dislike for Rocky Delgadillo. Whatever it is, Brown took the rare step of getting involved in a local D.A. race. He appeared on Trutanich's mailers to Democratic households, and last week he recorded a robocall for the Trutanich campaign.

"I know Trutanich and I know he has the experience to do an excellent job," Brown told whoever didn't hang up on him immediately, plus thousands of answering machines. "He's been the city attorney, and as such, he's battle tested. He's also independent, and he's practical... Please, vote for Carmen Trutanich for district attorney."

L.A. County said no thanks. Whoever is giving Brown advice about the local political landscape gave him a bum steer. He might want to find a new informant before November.

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Jane Usher
5. The Trutanich Executive Team

As city attorney, Trutanich has relied on a loyal cadre of political appointees, most of whom were expected to travel with him to the district attorney's office. It probably goes too far to say that they had their offices all picked out on the 18th floor, but whatever expectations they had are gone.

During the campaign, there were whispers that Trutanich would put Jane Usher, his special assistant, in charge of public integrity. (Look out, Jan Perry!) Perhaps Gary Schram, the head of Trutanich's bare bones "Bureau of Investigation," would be put in charge of the D.A.'s actual, honest-to-God Bureau of Investigation. Chief Deputy City Attorney Bill Carter might have become chief deputy D.A. John Franklin might have been handling communications. Oh well.

And now, for good measure, the biggest winner:


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D.A. Steve Cooley
D.A. Steve Cooley

Cooley looked like roadkill after his narrow loss to Kamala Harris in the 2010 attorney general's campaign. He had lost his own county by 14 points, and it looked like he had worn out his welcome after three terms.

Trutanich felt free to openly defy him by running for his office. Had he won, it would have been yet another rebuke of Cooley's leadership.

But Trutanich is out, and the two candidates advancing to the runoff -- Jackie Lacey and Alan Jackson -- are reflections of two sides of Cooley's own personality. Lacey is the cautious, mildly progressive administrator, while Jackson is the tough-minded prosecutor.

Cooley is backing Lacey, but Jackson is no less likely to continue his policies. Whoever wins, Cooley's legacy is secure.

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