Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Thursday, November 4, 2004


Page 1


Bench Officers Break Through in County Judicial Elections

Escobedo, Gomez, Priver, Zeidler, Groman Win Seats




In a break with tradition, at least two and apparently three subordinate judicial officers won Los Angeles Superior Court judgeships in Tuesday’s balloting.

Superior Court Referee Daniel Zeke Zeidler and Commissioner Donna Groman won substantial victories over Deputy District Attorneys David Lopez and Judith L. Meyer, respectively. Referee Mildred Escobedo appeared to defeat Deputy District Attorney Patrick David Campbell by a 17,000-vote margin, although the result could conceivably change with the counting of absentee and provisional ballots.

The other two runoffs were won by Deputy Attorney General Gus Gomez, who defeated Deputy District Attorney Lori Jones, and Deputy District Attorney Laura Priver, the only one of five prosecutors on the ballot to prevail. Priver defeated Workers’ Compensation Judge John Gutierrez, who fell to another then-prosecutor, Richard Walmark, in a runoff two years ago. 

Zeidler defeated Lopez 1,084,313 to 906,083, or 54.48 to 45.52 percent. Groman topped Meyer 1,080,199 to 928,084, or 53.79 to 46.21 percent.

The five judges elected Tuesday will begin their terms Jan. 3. Zeidler will succeed Judge Rosemary Shumsky, who is retiring Dec. 6; Groman will replace Judge James Wright, who did not run for re-election.

The Groman-Meyer race set records for fundraising, as Meyer raised over $300,000 and Groman nearly $200,000 as of Oct. 16. Final figures are not due until Jan. 31.

Both candidates’ coffers including substantial personal loans, over $100,000 from Meyer and $93,500 from Groman.

Times Endorsements

Although outspent, Groman had the advantage of a Los Angeles Times endorsement, as did all of the winning candidates except Gomez. Meyer’s campaign consultant, Joe Cerrell, said Groman also benefited from efforts by Democratic Party and gay and lesbian activists.

“It was a real cause for them,” Cerrell—a veteran of numerous Democratic campaigns himself—told the MetNews.

Meyer made a belated effort to offset the unusually partisan nature of Groman’s campaign by changing her own party affiliation—Republican activists who were willing to support her “insisted on it,” Cerrell said. But although she got her name onto GOP slate mailers, he continued, it did comparatively little good in a county where Sen. John Kerry got 63 percent of the presidential vote.

“I usually don’t get emotional about these things, but I feel badly about [Meyer losing], Cerrell said. “She was a very good candidate, a tireless campaigner, and she deserved better.”

Two Cerrell Victories

Cerrell and his firm, Cerrell Associates Inc., did better with their other two judicial campaigns Tuesday. They ran Zeidler’s effort, as well as that of James Rigali, who won a Santa Barbara Superior Court seat by less than two percentage points.

Groman was not available for comment, but a supporter who had considered running for the bench himself two years ago had a thought on the significance of the result.

“I think that Tuesday’s judicial elections stand on its head the conventional wisdom” that a “criminal prosecutor” or “deputy district attorney” designation will always trump that of commissioner or referee, attorney Alan Friedenthal said.

Zeidler, whose last report showed he had raised over $280,000 for the race—about a quarter million dollars more than his opponent—attributed his victory to the Times endorsement, slate mail, a “well qualified” rating by the County Bar, and “a lot of people rallying around me, trying to explain what a  Superior Court referee does.”

Friends and supporters, he said, sent out 20,000 endorsement postcards and hundreds of e-mails.

Zeidler said he intends to ask for an assignment to juvenile court, where he currently sits. He would eventually like to reach the administrative level of the juvenile justice system, he said, because it is “a critical court.”.

He said he has no political aspirations outside the court. “The best thing that ever happened in may life was losing for the state Assembly,” which he previously ran for, the two-term Redondo Beach school board member said.

Escobedo led Campbell 1,018,927 to 1,001,340 in the final election day tally for the seat being given up by Judge Marcus Tucker. There are approximately 285,000 absentee ballots and an undetermined number of provisional ballots still to be counted, a registrar’s spokesperson said, with the first updates due tomorrow.

Veteran campaign consultant Parke Skelton, who supported Escobedo but was not officially associated with the campaign, said he doubted Campbell could make up the difference, noting the two ran about even among absentees already counted.

Campbell’s consultant, Fred Huebscher, declined to comment on his client’s chances for a come-from-behind victory, saying the numbers “speak for themselves.”

In the race to succeed Judge Richard Hubbell, who did not file for re-election, Gomez led Jones 1,012,207 to 951,233, or 51.55 to 48.45 percent. Both Skelton, who ran Gomez’s campaign, and Huebscher, who was Jones’ consultant, agreed that Gomez’s spending advantage and concomitant placement on more than 90 percent of the slate mailers helped him overcome the fact that Jones was endorsed by the Times.

Skelton also credited Gomez’s designation as “deputy attorney general.” He might have been eligible to use a “prosecutor” tag, the consultant noted, but polling showed that the designation he chose was even more impressive to voters.

Jones said she had no regrets about the race and saluted Gomez on his victory. 

“He s a good guy, he’s competent, and he will do a good job,” she said of her opponent. She added that Gomez’s past political experience—he is a Glendale city councilman—probably helped him.

She is not likely to run for judge again, she said, but may seek an appointment. She is also on the Superior Court list of commissioner nominees.

In the race to succeed Judge Nancy Brown, who retired in January, Priver defeated Gutierrez, 1,029,393 to 916,518, or 52.9 to 47.1 percent.


Results of Nov. 2 Balloting in Judicial Races

Names in bold are those who won








Ballot Designation







Office No. 18

Mildred Escobedo

Superior Court Referee





Pat Campbell

Criminal Prosecutor





Office No. 29

Gus Gomez

Deputy Attorney General





Lori Jones

Criminal Prosecutor





Office No. 52

Laura F. Priver

Criminal Prosecutor





John C. Gutierrez

Administrative Law Judge





Office No. 53

Daniel Z. Zeidler

Superior Court Referee





David Lopez

Criminal Prosecutor





Office No. 69

Donna Groman

Superior Court Comissioner





Judith Levey Meyer

Deputy District Attorney






Copyright 2004, Metropolitan News Company