Thursday, May 20, 2004
Colleagues See Van de Kamp Coasting to State Bar Post
By DAVID WATSON, Staff Writer
Former state Attorney General John Van de Kamp is a heavy favorite in a four-way race for the presidency of the State Bar and could win a first-ballot majority Saturday in San Francisco, some of his colleagues said this week.
Van de Kamp, who also served as Los Angeles district attorney, is one of five board members elected from District 7, which consists of Los Angeles County. Three of the other four told the MetNews they see him as the favorite, with two suggesting a first-ballot win is likely or possible.
Van de Kamp is running against Redwood City attorney Vivian Kral, state Deputy Controller for Policy Windie O. Scott, and Russell Roeca of Roeca, Haas, Hager in San Francisco. All are in the final year of their three-year terms on the Board of Governors.
The president will be chosen by a secret ballot of the 22 board members at Saturday’s special meeting. Under the board’s rules, if no candidate receives a majority of the votes on the first ballot, the name of the candidate with the fewest votes is dropped.
Additional votes are then conducted until one candidate wins a majority, with the last-place finisher being dropped each time.
Los Angeles County board member Matt Cavanaugh, who joined the board along with Van de Kamp but chose not to run for president himself, said he has heard Van de Kamp “has somewhere between 14 to 18 of the 22 votes locked up, presumably considering his own.”
“I don’t think it’s going to be a very interesting election. If he’s got 18, that only leaves four other votes and three of those four are the other three candidates, so that’s a little creepy.”
Cavanaugh, who was elected as a self-styled “outsider” candidate the same year Van de Kamp was chosen with the support of the Breakfast Club, which for many years dominated the board selection process in Los Angeles County, cautioned that his evaluation “is all based on hearsay, of course.” But he said Van de Kamp has been aggressive in soliciting support among his colleagues.
“He just called me again—a professional politician trying to keep all his votes in a line,” Cavanaugh said.
Cavanaugh said he gives the other three candidates little chance in the contest.
“I think it’s pretty brave to run against him,” he declared.
Another District 7 member, David Marcus of the Century City law firm Marcus, Watanabe Snyder & Dave, predicted it would be “very difficult for John not to be elected” on Saturday. Marcus, who like Cavanaugh ran for the board as an “outsider” candidate, said any of the four candidates would make a “terrific president,” but added:
“It would be awfully tough for anybody who’s on the board who’s not running not to vote for John Van de Kamp. He’s the only candidate who has served in statewide office.”
Van de Kamp’s competitors “certainly could not hope to bring to the bar the sort of prestige and stature that someone whose nationally known, such as John Van de Kamp, could,” Marcus said.
He observed there would be “no shame or embarrassment to any of the other candidates in losing to him,” explaining:
“The unfortunate thing for them that they’re running against John Van de Kamp.”
Marcus said he hopes Van de Kamp is elected on the first ballot because it would save one of his opponents the embarrassment of being eliminated for receiving the fewest votes.
The second-year board member, who will be eligible to run for president himself next year, said he has already decided not to.
“Anybody who wants to be president must have a screw loose anyway,” he declared. “I have told my colleagues on the board that if I decide to run for president they have my permission to shoot me.”
First-year District 7 representative Sheldon H. Sloan declined to predict a Van de Kamp victory, saying he has not spoken with his colleagues on the board about how they might vote.
But he remarked:
“I think you’d probably have to say that right now John Van de Kamp is the favorite.”
Sloan, a former Los Angeles Municipal Court Judge and former president of the Los Angeles County Bar Association, was critical of the current process of choosing a State Bar president, saying it leads to too much politicking and perhaps bargaining for votes.
“I don’t like the process the way it is,” Sloan said. “I’m sure that promises were made, at least in the past.”
He said he has limited his own contact with the candidates during the campaign.
“I didn’t want to barter my vote,” Sloan explained.
Sloan said the bar might be better off choosing a president-elect from among its third-year members. A discussion of that issue is also on the board’s weekend agenda.
Sloan said his understanding is that a president-elect would serve a fourth year on the board, as the president does now, and become president during a fifth year.
Sloan, Marcus and Cavanaugh each declined to say who he will vote for Saturday.
Van de Kamp said he is “hopeful,” but declined to predict he will win.
“Never go into an election thinking it’s a lock,” he said, adding that he has talked to all of his board colleagues about the vote. While some have said they will support him, Van de Kamp said, he added he has tried to avoid putting “undue pressure” on the other board members.
Van de Kamp explained that while he has “heard others articulate” the view that his prominence would be an asset to the bar in its dealings with the governor, the chief justice, and state legislators, he has not made that argument to his colleagues himself.
The winner of the election will take office at the State Bar convention in Monterey in October.
Copyright 2004, Metropolitan News Company