Candidates for L.A. County District Attorney are sharpening their attacks on frontrunner Carmen Trutanich, out of concern that he may win the race outright on June 5.
Speaking at a forum in the Crenshaw area on Tuesday night, Chief Deputy Jackie Lacey urged the audience to unite behind her candidacy.
"The real person we have to worry about is Carmen Trutanich," Lacey said in her opening. "This is a person the L.A. Times has described as a 'liar' and a 'cheat.' If we continue to fight like this, he will walk off with this on June 5."
She closed on the same theme: "The big enemy is Carmen Trutanich. Who among us can kick his butt?"
The New Frontier Democratic Club, which hosted the forum, decided that person was Danette Meyers, and endorsed her.
Meyers was even more critical of Trutanich. She argued that Lacey has the backing of D.A. Steve Cooley, who created Trutanich's political career by supporting his run for L.A. city attorney.
"Who can beat Carmen Trutanich?" Meyers asked. "I can. Who put him there? Steve Cooley... Steve Cooley put that animal there, not me."
Trutanich did not attend Tuesday night's forum. He has skipped two other debates as well. Organizers said that Trutanich had confirmed to them that he would attend, so they left an empty seat for him with his name tag.
Prosecutor Alan Jackson also did not attend, presumably because, as a Republican, he would have had a hard time winning over a Democratic club.
Though she has not raised as much money as her rivals, Meyers has won a string of endorsements recently. Last week, she picked up the backing of the L.A. County Democratic Party.
Late Tuesday, she also won the support of the Association of Deputy District Attorneys, the union that represents prosecutors in the D.A.'s office.
"She's been a trooper in the trenches for well over 20 years," said Hyatt Seligman, the president of the prosecutors' union. "She has a fabulous reputation as a trial attorney, and she's never been coddled or catered to."
The union has been warring with D.A. Steve Cooley for several years. Lacey, who serves as Cooley's top deputy, played a direct role in the administration's battle, and was extremely unlikely to win the union's support.
By endorsing Meyers, the prosecutors' union has gone against its powerful parent organization, the L.A. County Federation of Labor, which backed Trutanich in February. The prosecutors union initially declined to endorse anyone, and hoped that the Federation of Labor would also stay out of the primary, Seligman said.
However, the ADDA board recently decided it was important to make its preference known, in hopes of having an effect on the primary vote.
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"Our management is rotten at the top," Seligman said. "We need a housecleaning, and that's what we're going to get with Ms. Meyers."
Prosecutor Bobby Grace also attended Tuesday's forum. If no candidate wins a majority on June 5, the top two finishers will face each other in a general election in November.
On Monday, the Peace Officers Research Association of California -- an influential state law enforcement group -- endorsed Lacey and Jackson.
Last week, former candidate Mario Trujillo endorsed Trutanich.