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Steve Cooley is expected to back Jackie Lacey to succeed him

​The race for district attorney is getting more interesting, as two African-American women are launching campaigns to succeed Steve Cooley in 2012.

Jackie Lacey, the number three administrator in the D.A.'s office, filed paperwork on Monday to create the Committee to Elect Jackie Lacey for District Attorney 2012. Lacey is close to Cooley, and is considered most likely to get his endorsement.

Meanwhile, Danette Meyers has announced that she, too, is entering the race. Meyers was a supporter of ex-D.A. Gil Garcetti. In an interview this week, Meyers took a few veiled shots at Lacey — particularly on her labor relations record.

“I'm a big union person,” Meyers said. “I wouldn't run around union-busting.”

That's a reference to Lacey's role in the bitter battle between Cooley's office and the Association of Deputy District Attorneys. As we reported last month, Lacey testified in 2009 that she warned a prosecutor not to get involved in the union because it could hurt his career.

Despite that episode, Lacey's supporters say she will do well with labor — an important source of independent support in an expensive county-wide campaign. Lacey got Cooley's support to be U.S. Attorney in 2009, though she was not a finalist for that job.

Meyers is probably best known as the prosecutor who took on Lindsay Lohan. (TMZ called her Lohan's “legal nemesis.”) She's been at the D.A.'s office for 24 years and has handled many much more serious cases, including over 40 murder trials. Under Garcetti, she ran the D.A.'s office in Bellflower.

In an interview, Garcetti said he hasn't endorsed anybody in the race. But he described Meyers as a “forward-thinking” prosecutor who cares about juvenile justice reform.

“She's not just interested in success in the courtroom, but in how do you keep people out of the courtroom,” Garcetti said.

Meyers supported Garcetti when Cooley ran against him in 2000. After Cooley won, she said she was transferred to the Florence/Firestone office, which she said is the “lowest of the low” in terms of D.A. assignments. From there she was moved to Compton, which is not much better. She now works as a front-line prosecutor at the Airport branch, which — Lohan aside — is not a particularly glamorous assignment.

Cooley has not completely ruled out running for a fourth term in 2012. But he has said that he would step aside if a qualified career prosecutor were in the ring, and he is said to be getting more comfortable with the idea of retiring.

In addition to Meyers and Lacey, prosecutor Alan Jackson has also announced his candidacy. Jackson's campaign announced this week that he had raised $113,000 in December.

Jackson and Lacey would likely continue the policies of the Cooley administration, more or less. That's not the case with Meyers — who said she would run even if Cooley seeks reelection.

“Mr. Cooley has had three terms,” she said. “L.A. County is ready for something new. I am that change that I think L.A. County needs.”

For one thing, Meyers said that too many juvenile cases end up in the adult system. She also vowed to reestablish the environmental crimes unit — which Cooley shut down — and tackle recidivism.

“As a society, we cannot afford to incarcerate, incarcerate, incarcerate everybody,” Meyers said. “We have got to start to rehabilitate.”

In that, she sounds an awful lot like Kamala Harris, who just defeated Cooley in the race for attorney general. Like Harris, she stresses the need to be tough on violent offenders while reforming reentry programs to keep lower-level defendants from reoffending.

She also notes that she has lived in L.A. County for 50 years — an unspoken contrast with Lacey, who moved to L.A. County last year from Simi Valley.

“I didn't just move to L.A. County. I'm not interested in being U.S. Attorney,” she said. “I'm interested in being D.A.”

Update: Lacey just put out a press release, in which she announces the formation of her “exploratory committee.” She says that as D.A., she would focus on cyber crime. From the release:

“For the past 10 years I have had the privilege of serving as a top manager in the nation's finest local prosecutorial agency and helping guide it into the 21st Century.”
“In the coming weeks, I am going to meet with people from all corners of the county to discuss my vision for the office,” she added.  With the decrease in violent crime, Lacey said she would increase the office's focus on cyber crime, which victimizes a greater number of people.  She noted that many of these perpetrators “hide behind a hard drive” and escape justice.

“I am committed to searching for ways to further modernize our office and enable all prosecutors in the D.A.'s Office to aggressively pursue justice against these rogue criminals,” she said.  

One other thing: Keep an eye on Carmen Trutanich.

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