Thursday, June 7, 2018
In Superior Court Races…
Amendariz, Davis, Gibbons, Gilbertson, Segall, Spear Elected
Judge Malcolm Mackey Turns Back Challenge, as Expected; Females Appear to Have Advantage
By ROGER M. GRACE, Editor
(News and Analysis)
Los Angeles County has six new superior court judges, through election—with two winning in three-way races—and one veteran jurist handily beating off a challenge, leaving four contests to be decided in the Nov. 6 general election.
The results of Tuesday’s primary (published in full on Page 3) seemed to indicate that women candidates had an advantage.
Incumbent Malcolm Mackey, 88, garnered more than three-fourths of the vote in a match with an obscure Woodland Hills attorney, Anthony Lewis, whose campaign effort was feeble. The outcome of that race did not appear to be in doubt in light of Mackey’s superior ballot designation as a judge—Lewis being termed “Attorney at Law”—and the judge’s name appearing on nearly every slate mailer.
Winning outright in Tuesday’s primary, despite each having two opponents, were State Bar Court Judge Maria Lucy Amendariz and Senior Deputy County Counsel Rene Caldwell Gilbertson.
Prevailing over a single opponent were Deputy District Attorney Wendy E. Segall, Superior Court Commissioner Danielle R.A. Gibbons, Deputy District Attorney Troy Davis, and Deputy District Attorney Emily Theresa Spear.
Candidates in Run-Off
Facing off in November will be:
• Superior Court Commissioner A. Verónica Sauceda and Deputy District Attorney Alfred A. Coletta;
• Deputy Los Angeles City Attorney Patricia (Patti) Hunter and Redondo Beach Senior Deputy Prosecutor Sydne Jane Michel;
• Deputy District Attorney Tony J. Cho and Deputy Public Defender Holly L. Hancock;
• Deputy District Attorney Javier Perez and attorney/realtor Michael P. Ribons.
Women at Advantage
An apparent factor in the election was gender. The two males who won outright were Mackey and Davis, each of whom faced one rival who was male.
In each of the other four races that were decided, there was at least one male running, except in the battle between one-time friends and now antagonists Segall and Deputy District Attorney Mary Ann Escalante. In the other three contests, Armendariz bested a male and a female; Gilbertson drew more votes than her two male competitors; and Spear trounced a male adversary.
In one of the four contests to appear on the November ballot—in which Perez and Ribons are pitted against each other—three males competed in the primary. In the others:
• Sauceda attracted more votes than Coletta, who campaigned more heavily than she. There was a second male contestant in the race who barely campaigned.
• Hunter and Michel each received more votes than a man in the race, and Hunter did slightly better in polling than Michel who spent far more money than she, but has a first name (Sydne) that could be that of a man.
• Hancock was the sole female who did not pull more votes than a male competitor. Rather than using her office title—”Deputy Public Defender, County of Los Angeles” (which might have lent her a soft-on-crime image)—she ran as “Attorney at Law,” which was generally seen by observers as a weak ballot designation in contrast to that of Cho: “Deputy District Attorney, County of Angeles.”
The ballot designation could not have been the sole factor, however, because more ballots were cast for Hancock than another male contender with the same title as Cho’s. Cho also had the benefit of far higher finances and being on numerous slate mailers.
However, having ads on the predominant number of slate mailers was not an assurance of winning. Unemployed lawyer Onica Valle Cole’s committee bought space on the greatest number of mailers in her contest and came in third in competing for the seat won by Armendariz.
Cole had the ballot designation of “Attorney/Mother,” has an unusual first name, and the name is not clearly that of a female.
Michel was also featured on a large number of slate mailers.
Spending did not bring success to Los Angeles Superior Court Commissioner Armando Durón. According to the latest campaign financial reports, his committee expended nearly $155,000—yet, he lost to Deputy District Attorney Emily Theresa Spear whose committee paid out less than $20,000. Spear won by the highest margin of any of the candidates for open seats, receiving 61.73 percent of the vote.
The weakness of the ballot designation of a “Commissioner” cannot alone explain the outcome of that race. Deputy District Attorney David A. Berger lost to Gibbons, who is a commissioner, and Sauceda, also a commissioner, acquired more votes than Coletta, a deputy district attorney.
Spear had the endorsement of the Los Angeles Times, but so did Berger, as did Coletta, Michel, Hancock, and Ribons, who came in second.
Durón is not apt to have been at a disadvantage based on his ethnicity; Hispanic names are generally regarded as a plus in Los Angeles County judicial elections.
Spear ran the successful 2014 campaign of then-Deputy District Attorney (now Judge) Carol Najera against then-incumbent James B. Pierce. In an interview earlier this year, Spear said one technique she used in that campaign—and might have employed in her own election effort—was to buy space on slates, at the last minute, which the competitor had passed up, being able to get the space for a pittance.
More votes went to Spear, whose campaign spent little, than to Davis, whose committee was the highest spender in the county’s 11 judicial races. His committee’s latest report shows expenditures of $291,374.21; he harvested 58.64 percent of the votes.
Davis had the advantage not only in funding, but also had a stronger ballot designation. Criminal defense attorney David D. Diamond was identified merely as “Attorney.”
Diamond sought a designation as “Police Commissioner/Attorney” but David obtained a writ ordering the registrar-recorder to strike the first two words. Although Diamond does chair the Burbank Police Commission, his post is an unpaid one and the commission meets eight times a year for about an hour or two.
Judicial Candidates Comment on Election Outcome
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Malcolm Mackey, re-elected:
First, I want to thank the Metropolitan News, the Superior Court Judges, Los Angeles Times and Los Angeles County Bar for their support as to my qualifications and endorsements for the Los Angeles Superior Court.
It was through this method to get the truth to the voting public. Los Angeles County is 11.5 million people and it took hard campaigning to get my qualifications to the public.
My opponent did not do a good job of research as to my background and to my judicial decisions some that I have made 24 years ago and he tried to inject partisan politics in a judicial race and did not realize that I have been active prior to 1978 in the Democratic Party as I was Vice Chairman of the Los Angeles County Democratic Committee in 1978.
This type of attack on judicial independence and impartiality has been all too common in California and should be a concern to all of us.
Deputy District Attorney Wendy Segall, elected to judgeship:
I am humbled by my election as a Superior Court Judge by the voters of Los Angeles County. I look forward to continuing to serve the public in this capacity.
Senior Deputy County Counsel Rene Caldwell Gilbertson, elected to judgeship:
I would like to express my sincere thanks to the voters of Los Angeles County. I have met wonderful people along the campaign trail, and I wish all of the outstanding judicial candidates much success in their careers.
Deputy District Attorney Alfred A. Coletta, in a runoff, Office 4:
I am very grateful for the Metropolitan News-Enterprise endorsement, the Los Angeles Times endorsement, the numerous Los Angeles Superior Court judges and all of the organizations that endorsed my qualifications for the position of judge and including all of the voters.
I look forward to the November general election with the continued endorsements and voter support.
Los Angeles Deputy City Attorney Patricia (Patti) Hunter, in a runoff, Office 16:
I am truly grateful to each Los Angeles County voter who did their research and cast their vote for me. Through my website, my endorsements, and other available means, the voters were able to learn about my values, my academic and work accomplishments, my experience as a prosecutor and civil attorney, and my commitment to justice and public safety. As we head into the November election, I encourage all voters to seek out the many ways to learn about the candidates and make an informed decision.
Redondo Beach Senior Deputy Prosecutor Sydne Jane Michel, in a runoff, Office 16:
I am pleased that so many voters showed their confidence in my qualifications, and I thank all of the voters who turned out as well as those who endorsed and supported me. I look forward to campaigning to succeed in the general election in November, and appreciate everyone’s continued support.
Deputy District Attorney Tony Cho, in a runoff Office 60:
I am honored and humbled by the support that I received in last night’s election. I knew there would be challenges in a three-person race but I believe we ran a smart, efficient and diligent campaign, and am pleased that the results reflected our hard work.
I would like to thank the legal community, unions, the Los Angeles County Democratic Party, community organizations, elected officials, judicial officers, and the voters who supported me in this race, and I would ask everyone for their continued support going forward. I will continue to campaign with integrity and hard work going into the General Election.
Deputy Public Defender Holly L. Hancock, in a runoff, Office 60:
First. I would like to thank all those that voted for and endorsed me. In particular, the various bar associations with whom I am associated, the Mexican-American Bar Association, state legislators, supportive media, including the Los Angeles Times, and above all, the voters of Los Angeles County. I have been on a steep learning curve in this campaigning process, since I have never been so intimately acquainted with a campaign before. Indeed, the judicial campaign process is the unicorn in the horserace. I applaud the efforts of all the candidates. Those who have come to the end of the road, I give my congratulations to them whether they are the victor or took the silver. I gleaned a lot from their collective composure and grace under fire. While I faced a politically savvy opponent, I believe the voters of Los Angeles are seeking a new kind of perspective for the bench. I look forward to taking this message onward to the November general elections, and ultimately, to being a voice on the bench that is fair and unbiased.
David D. Diamond, losing candidate:
I am honored to have met Troy and he will be a great Judge. We knew going in that running against a prosecutor would be a near impossible challenge, but we still made a solid showing and obtained remarkable endorsements, from major newspapers, elected officials, law enforcement/County DA and Judges. I am proud of what we accomplished, honored to have met my fellow candidates and cant thank my supporters enough. I woke up this morning not a Judge, but still a lawyer, sworn to protect and defend the constitution. I will continue to litigate cases, teach the law, serve as a Police Commissioner and volunteer as a Judge Pro Tem.
Copyright 2018, Metropolitan News Company