District Attorney Hopefuls Debate Death Penalty, Marijuana In L.A.
The candidates are fighting to succeed Steve Cooley, who plans to retire after three terms in office. Without Cooley, this will be the first race in almost 50 years without an incumbent. Vying for one of the county's most influential jobs, the road to election day has naturally become heated with candidates such as Carmen Trutanich coming under tremendous scrutiny.
Trutanich, the city's district attorney, is the most high-profile contender of the six but was unable to attend Tuesday's KPCC debate. Instead, John L. Breault III, Bobby Grace, Alan Jackson, Jackie Lacey and Danette Meyers were given time to trump up their campaigns for the public in attendance.
Aside from Jackson, all of the candidates are native Californians, and three of them—Grace, Lacey and Meyers—could potentially become L.A.'s first African American D.A. Lacey and Meyers are also fighting to become the first African American woman to hold the office.
Moderator Larry Mantle of KPCC's AirTalk grilled with candidates with questions on the death penalty vote coming up in November, alternative sentencing, the legalization of marijuana and more. All of the candidates agreed that marijuana should not be a for-profit industry and that it should operate as a co-op.
“I believe that over-the-counter sales, for-profit, are illegal,” Lacey said. “A co-op is supposed to be something where it’s a shared thing. It’s not supposed to be something where you get rich.”
When asked about what issues would become priorities should they be elected, candidates focused on issues of alternative sentencing, reforming the juvenile justice system and environmental and cyber crimes.
Jackson, who kept pushing his law enforcement-backed campaign, was the only one to address issues of integrity.
“I truly believe that corrupt public officials strike at the heart of our democracy,” Jackson said, “in a way that almost nothing else does and we almost can’t trust anything if we can’t trust our public officials.”
The debate was relatively tame for most of the night until the moderator asked some edgier questions that put Lacey and Breault in the hot seat.
Mantles asked Lacey about some conflicting testimony she gave under oath in a 2009 and 2010 case involving an employment dispute. Initially, she attributed the discrepancies to low blood sugar and confusion about the question, but at the debate she didn’t dance around the question and gave a very matter-of-fact answer.
“That particular day, I made a mistake,” Lacey said. “I was not prepared for being on the stand answering questions and certainly it was not a good day. I will say this: At the end of the day, the same paper that exposed it, endorsed me. As a leader you are going to make mistakes. I don’t care who you are, you’re going to make mistakes.”
In fact, Lacey has an impressive number of endorsements from many papers including The L.A. Times, the San Gabriel Valley Tribune and the Pasadena Star News. She also has Cooley's support, and that of some notable Hollywood players like producer Lawrence Bender.
It was pointed out Breault has almost no high profile endorsements. When asked whether or not this should make voters wary, he didn't seem particularly concerned.
“Because I’m the best for the job,” he said in defense of his campaign. “I’ve been doing it for the longest. I’m putting myself out there for the people, not for the publishers of newspapers magazines or radio shows, but for the people who are voting.”
Voters will make their choice on June 5. To take the seat, a candidate must obtain 50 percent of the vote. Otherwise the top two contenders will compete for the spot in a final election this November.