Thursday, June 8, 2006
Lawyer-Turned-Businesswoman Unseats 20-Year Incumbent Judge
Four Races Headed to Runoffs as Dust Clears From Tuesday’s Elections for Trial Bench
By KENNETH OFGANG, Staff Writer/Appellate Courts
Lynn Diane Olson, who left law practice more than 12 years ago to operate a bakery and sandwich shop with her husband, has won election as a Los Angeles Superior Court judge, ousting 20-year incumbent Dzintra Janavs.
Final returns gave Olson nearly 54 percent of the vote to 46 percent for Janavs, who was appointed to the court 20 years ago this month after a 24-year career in the local U.S. Attorney’s Office. Janavs, 69, becomes the first incumbent judge to lose a countywide race in 18 years.
Both candidates agreed that huge campaign spending by Olson, who once said she intended to spend less than $1,000 on the race, was a decisive factor.
“I’m thrilled, humbled, and overwhelmed,” Olson told the MetNews. While her friend and unpaid campaign adviser, Fred Huebscher, had predicted her win, Olson said she “thought beating an incumbent was an uphill battle,” but was persuaded that it was sufficiently possible for her and her husband, Hermosa Beach Councilman Michael Keegan, to put “a lot of our personal funds” into the race—about $125,000, or four times what Janavs spent.
Keegan and Olson own Manhattan Bread & Bagel, a Manhattan Beach establishment selling bakery goods and sandwiches.
Olson also attributed the win to having taken “every opportunity to go before the voters” and to her being the endorsed candidate of the Democratic Party, as well as to the support of a number of local officials.
She targeted Janavs, she said, in part because she perceived the incumbent, a Republican, as being politically vulnerable. “Philosophy is important to a lot of voters,” she said.
She acknowledged that having beaten a judge who is well liked by colleagues and received the highest possible rating from the Los Angeles County Bar Association will not endear her to those whom she will be working with.
“I know I have a lot of fences to mend [and that] I’m viewed as an outsider,” she said. Her plan, she said, is to “work extremely hard” as a judge, just as she has as a practicing attorney with a pair of prominent firms and in her business.
“I will do everything to the best of my ability to be a competent judge that the citizens can be proud of,” she said.
Uncomfortable With Fundraising
Janavs said that while her unusual name—she is a native of Latvia, her family having been resettled in this country in 1950—was a factor, it would not have been decisive had it not been for Olson’s enormous spending.
The jurist said that while she did some fundraising, she was not comfortable with the time that such activities would have taken from her work—she presides over a notoriously hectic writs and receivers department—nor with the possibility of having to recuse herself from cases involving lawyers who were campaign donors.
She said she intends to serve out her term, which ends in January, and has not yet thought about possibilities beyond that. She declined to rule out any possibility, including applying for a new appointment to the court, saying she was “not going to speculate.”
In other races:
•Deputy City Attorney Deborah Sanchez led a field of three candidates for the seat from which Judge Charles Rubin recently retired. Deputy Attorney General Robert Henry apparently finished second, setting up a runoff, but there was an outside possibility that absentee and provisional ballots would lift Superior Court Commissioner Alan Friedenthal over Henry.
The picture will become clearer this morning, when the registrar’s office is expected to announce an estimate of the number of ballots remaining to be counted. Henry led Friedenthal by about 3,500 votes.
Sanchez attributed her first-place finish to a number of factors, including her
Spanish surname, “Criminal Prosecutor” ballot designation, and being the only woman in the race.
•Deputy District Attorney Daviann Mitchell and Workers’ Compensation Judge John Gutierrez qualified for a runoff for the seat from which Judge Michael Knight retired in February. Mitchell said she has a hectic trial schedule, but intends to continue with her campaign strategy of making as many personal appearances as possible and raising as much money as she can.
Her campaign, she said, has been ably managed by consultant Evelyn Jerome, who had a good election night, with Friedenthal as of now being the only one of her five candidates who did not win outright or make a runoff.
Gutierrez’s consultant, Hal Dash of Cerrell Associates, Inc, which also represented Janavs and Deputy City Attorney Daniel Lowenthal, who won, said Gutierrez—who has lost runoffs to prosecutors in the last two election cycles—can win in November “if he has the resources.” He was outspent considerably by Mitchell in the primary.
The race featured a total of six candidates, two of whom voiced disappointment at the results and ruled out any possibility of a future campaign.
Valley lawyer Stephen Feldman, who spent over $100,000 on the race and got a little over 10 percent of the vote, said he was “very naive going into the whole process.” Deputy City Attorney Richard Loomis, who spent less than $1,000, said that while the experience was “positive” in terms of gaining the confidence of supporters and endorsers, he was disappointed to learn that candidates can be elected to the bench by getting on “slate mailers that represent you as something you are not.”
•Deputy District Attorney Judith L. Meyer, who lost her first bid for the court two years ago, said she was “on cloud nine” after winning the seat given up by Judge Stephen Petersen. She received nearly 60 percent of the vote in defeating Deputy Attorney General S. Paul Bruguera and Douglas Weitzman.
•Assistant City Attorney Susan Lopez-Giss defeated Deputy City Attorney Richard Kraft to win the seat being vacated by Judge Larry Knupp. Lopez-Giss, whose campaign consultant was Jerome, will be joining her husband, Judge Harvey Giss, on the court.
•Deputy District Attorney Hayden Zacky, also a Jerome client, and Santa Monica attorney George Montgomery topped Deputy Public Defender C. Edward Mack and will face off in the runoff.
•Lowenthal handily defeated attorney Robert Davenport to win the seat of Judge Barbara Burke, who has applied for disability retirement.
•Deputy District Attorney David Stuart and Deputy City Attorney Janis L. Barquist led a field of seven candidates seeking the seat from which Judge Paula Mabrey retired in April. Both candidates said they were pleased with their results and planned extensive fundraising between now and the general election. Jerome was Barquist’s consultant; Stuart, making his second bid for the court, did not hire a professional adviser.
Copyright 2006, Metropolitan News Company