Had D.A. Steve Cooley been elected attorney general, the odds-on favorite to replace him would have been his third-ranking administrator, Jacquelyn P. Lacey.
Lacey, 53, was considered most likely to get Cooley's support for the appointment. She's also a Democrat and an African-American, which would have helped with the Board of Supervisors, which is responsible for filling a D.A. vacancy and is majority Democrat.
But she's not a politician, and has no public profile to speak of. (She's so under the radar, in fact, that we couldn't find a picture of her.) So when Cooley lost to Kamala Harris, some folks within the office questioned whether she would want to launch a campaign for the 2012 election.
But sources say Lacey has been talking with political consultants and is likely to announce her candidacy for the job in short order.
Lacey would likely face other candidates within the office, including Alan Jackson, the prosecutor who handled the Phil Spector trials. Others outside the office may take a look at running as well.
But among all the potential candidates, Lacey is closest to Cooley, and that should count for a lot. At a press conference on Wednesday, Cooley laid out his criteria for getting his endorsement. He wants someone who is a career prosecutor, not a partisan politician, and not somebody he thinks would disgrace the office.
Lacey meets all of those qualifications. Though Cooley hasn't officially, formally, ruled out seeking a fourth term, it's likely that he would step aside if Lacey runs.
Lacey grew up in L.A., attended Dorsey High School and got her law
degree from USC. She started as a prosecutor with the D.A.'s office in
the 1980s, where she handled felony trials, including 11 murder cases.
Cooley appointed her to run
the Bureau of Central Operations shortly after his election in 2000. She
has since earned a following within the office. She has been promoted to Assistant District Attorney, and now oversees
roughly 500 lawyers.
She has lived in Ventura County for most of the last 20 years. That would have been a
problem because the D.A. must live in L.A. County. But — perhaps anticipating a vacancy in the D.A.'s office — she recently moved
into a rented home near Granada Hills, which is just over the county line on the L.A. side. She registered to vote there in
The biggest stain on her resume comes from the administration's bitter relations with the Association of Deputy District Attorneys. In 2009, Lacey testified at an employee relations hearing that she had warned a prosecutor not to get involved with the union because it would hurt his career.
That could be a damaging admission of union-busting, which could be especially problematic in labor-dominated L.A. politics. Lacey later changed her testimony, saying she misunderstood the question because she has low blood sugar and has difficulty concentrating in the afternoons. For whatever it's worth, sources say the L.A. County Federation of Labor has a positive impression of Lacey.
Last year, Cooley supported Lacey for U.S. Attorney, but she was not
among the finalists for that job.
As a Democrat, Lacey has an advantage over a Republican candidate like Jackson, given the partisan breakdown of L.A. County. But she would probably have to face some other Democrats as well, some of whom might be more natural politicians than she is.
Having said that, her campaign would generate a lot of attention for its potential to make history. L.A. has had 36 district attorneys, and all have been white men.