At a press conference in his office this afternoon, Steve Cooley all but ruled out running for a fourth term as district attorney.
But Cooley, fresh off a narrow defeat to Kamala Harris in the race for attorney general, plans to have a big role in choosing his successor.
Cooley said he would not support "some politician-type who's not a professional prosecutor." Nor would he back some "unqualified, disreputable people who happen to be lawyers." He didn't name names, but you can fill in Rocky Delgadillo in the former category and Steve Ipsen in the latter.
If nobody who meets his criteria steps up, he said may just run for a fourth term in 2012.
Chances are that someone will rise to the challenge. The D.A.'s office does not lack for strivers, and after 12 years there are probably quite a few people who think it's their turn.
Within the office, one of the names that gets mentioned a lot is Alan Jackson, the prosecutor who won a murder conviction in the Phil Spector case. Jackson has a colorful courtroom style, and also handled the Mickey Thompson murder case and the Lily Burk case.
Outside the D.A.'s office, a lot of folks have mentioned Thomas O'Brien, the former U.S. Attorney.
Another name in the ether is City Attorney Carmen Trutanich, who is close to Cooley and is thought to be interested in the D.A. job. But Cooley seemed to rule that out at today's press conference, saying that Trutanich has pledged to seek a second term as city attorney. He has indeed made that pledge, but politicians often find ways to wriggle out of those things. Cooley's comment appeared to slam the door, at least on Trutanich running with Cooley's support.
Cooley said that whoever succeeds him should be non-partisan, though it's not clear what he means by that, since he just ran a partisan campaign.
"If they're partisan, they can cancel their ticket," he said.
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Presumably he means somebody like Delgadillo or Jack Weiss, which is to say, Democrats in search of higher office.
It does seem a little odd that a guy who just won 39% of the vote in L.A. County is claiming the role of gatekeeper. At some point, a reporter even asked Cooley if he has the power to appoint his successor.
"No I don't," he said. "The electorate will pick."
So long as that's clear.