Friday, November 26, 2010
Philibosian Says Cooley Was Victim of ‘Democratic Tsunami’
By KENNETH OFGANG, Staff Writer
Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley conceded defeat Wednesday in his bid for California attorney general, the final victim of what a key advisor called “a Democratic tsunami, a blue wave.”
As of 3:37 p.m., Secretary of State Debra Bowen reported, Harris had 4,396,359 votes, or 46 percent, to Cooley’s 4,338,135, or 45.4%, a lead of 58,224 votes. Fewer than 150,000 votes remained to be counted statewide, and many of those were in counties that Harris carried heavily.
Former Los Angeles District Attorney Robert Philibosian, who played an active role in Cooley’s campaign from the beginning, said the result was the culmination of a “combination of things,” including the “tsunami” that engulfed the entire Republican ticket.
Democrats swept all of the state constitutional offices, replicating a feat they performed in 2002, and also won the open U.S. Senate contest. The attorney general’s race was the only close one, as Cooley succeeded in reducing Democratic margins in Los Angeles County and elsewhere, but not by enough to win.
Besides the strength of her party, Philibosian said, the Democrat had a number of advantages.
“Steve Cooley ran for attorney general for 10 months, Kamala Harris has been running for attorney general for three years,” he explained. “Steve was asked to run by multiple law enforcement organizations and by leaders of the Republican Party, Kamala Harris is extremely politically ambitious and it’s commonly believed she is looking for higher office.”
Harris, he said, benefited from a large Democratic turnout and the “huge” get-out-the-vote effort by labor unions that “made life very difficult for Cooley.”
In his concession statement, Cooley said “it was gratifying to have received the votes of over 4 million Californians” and “unfortunate that someone who is a non-partisan non-politician could not overcome the increasingly partisan tendencies of the state, even for an office that by its nature necessitates a non-partisan approach.”
He said he intends to serve out his term as district attorney, which expires in two years, but did not mention whether he intends to run for re-election.
Philibosian predicted that he would win if he does. If he doesn’t, the former district attorney said, “there will be a free-for-all, because district attorney is a great job.”
John Eastman, the former Chapman University law school dean who, along with state Sen. Tom Harman, lost to Cooley in the primary, said Cooley was defeated, in part, because Harris was able to exploit the issue of pension “double dipping.”
Eastman, who said he did everything he could to help Cooley in the general election, noted that the Republican was 5-to-7 points ahead in opinion polls prior to a televised debate in which he answered a question about his eligibility for a county pension that would be payable during his term as attorney general.
Asked whether he intended to “double dip,” Cooley responded:
“Yes, I do. I earned it. I definitely earned whatever pension rights I have and I will certainly rely upon that to supplement the very low, incredibly low, salary that’s paid to the state attorney general.”
Eastman, who made pension reform an issue in his primary campaign and once called Cooley “the poster boy” for why public employee retirement laws should be changed, said the Los Angeles district attorney was “already vulnerable” on the issue, and compounded his vulnerability by deprecating the attorney general’s salary of $150,000 as “incredibly low.”
The conservative scholar made clear his disapproval of the outcome. Harris, he said, “will be even less solicitous of following the law” than current Attorney General Jerry Brown.
“I’m extremely troubled by her utter failure...to enforce the law of this state with regard to the death penalty” and her promised refusal to defend Proposition 8, the voter-enacted ban on same-sex marriage, Eastman said. “It politicizes the top law office in the state.”
The American Foundation for Equal Rights, which supports same-sex marriage, took a contrary view.
“Today’s decision in the Attorney General race means that equality triumphed in every California statewide race,” AFER said in a statement.
“The contrast with 2008, when despite the historic election of President Obama, Prop. 8 was passed by the voters, is startling. This year equality triumphed in California. One key difference is that the vitriol of the Yes On 8 campaign has been replaced by a substantive discussion of the facts through efforts like the Foundation’s successful federal court case for marriage equality.”
Harris campaigned vigorously as an opponent of Proposition 8, while Cooley said he would defend the will of the voters on the issue.
Brian Brokaw, campaign manager for Harris, said his candidate thanked her opponent “for a spirited campaign” and was looking forward “to working together on the critical public safety challenges facing California.” But because the vote count was continuing, he said, she would have no other comment before Tuesday, the deadline for counties to complete their tallies.
Copyright 2010, Metropolitan News Company