Metropolitan News-Enterprise

 

Thursday, March 5, 2020

 

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Highest Spending Candidate Fails to Win Superior Court Seat

Attorney Reuben, Whose Committee Took in More than $625,000, Loses to Deputy D.A. Powell; Four Other DDAs—Cole, Fuller, Montalban, Almada—Gain Election, as Does Deputy A.G. Sun

 

By a MetNews Staff Writer

 

Body:The adage that “money speaks” was not validated by yesterday’s unofficial results of the elections for nine Los Angeles Superior Court open seats, with Deputy District Attorney Sherry L. Powell, in a “David versus Goliath” victory, landing a judgeship despite her committee being outspent by that of her rival by about 1,000 percent.

Attorney Timothy Reuben, billed on the ballot as “Attorney/Business Owner,” spent well over half a million dollars on his campaign, while Powell’s committee paid out only $5,549.11, as of Feb. 15, the latest date for which figures have been reported. Of the 23 campaigns for judgeships, the highest spending was on Reuben’s bid, with the actual spending apt to have exceeded the $524,111.52 that was reported for 2019 through Feb. 15; funds received of $1,000 or more must be specially reported within 24 hours, and Reuben on Feb. 24 added $50,000 to his coffers and on Feb. 27 chipped in another $55,000.

The perception that voters are wearying of candidates with tough-on-crime images—the notion underlying George Gascon’s apparently failed bid to unseat District Attorney Jackie Lacey—was not borne out in judicial races, with a deputy district attorney coming in first in eight of the contests. The only candidate with the ballot designation of “Deputy District Attorney, County of Los Angeles” who suffered a loss was Robert “Bob” Villa, whose opponent, Linda Sun, had the stronger title of “Deputy Attorney General, State of California.”

Other Victors

Gaining office, aside from Powell and Sun, were Deputy District Attorneys Emily Cole, Kenneth M. Fuller, Adan Montalban, and Manuel Alejandro Almada. Cole, with 83.24 of the ballots cast in her favor, was the highest vote-getter among the judicial candidates in the county (other than Deputy District Attorneys Shannon Cooley, Michelle Kelley, and Lana Kim who drew no opponents, and thus had 100 percent of the vote).

Facing possible run-offs are Deputy District Attorneys Steve Morgan, who amassed, according to the latest figures as of press time, 49.3 percent of the ballots in a three-way race, and Scott Andrew Yang, with 49.86 percent, also in a contest with two opponents. Uncertainty looms because ballots that were postmarked by Tuesday and are received by the Registrar-Recorder’s Office by Friday will be counted, and candidates will be able to advocate the counting or non-inclusion of questionable ballots.

If there is a run-off in either or both of those races, Morgan would be pitted against University of South Dakota law professor Myanna Dellinger and Yang would compete with criminal defense attorney David D. Diamond.

Berger, McKay Compete

Headed for a sure run-off is Deputy District Attorney David Berger from whom potential votes were siphoned by Nick C. Rini, also a deputy DA. Berger will compete in the general election with Klint James McKay—who reported no campaign spending—but has the word “Judge” in his designation, which is “Administrative Law Judge, California Department of Social Services.”

McKay was one of two candidates who had formed no committee to receive funds. The other was Mark MacCarley, who came in third in the contest won by Fuller.

MacCarley virtually abandoned his campaign after the Registrar-Recorder’s Office disallowed his chosen ballot designation of “Retired Army General.” He was relegated to the designation of “Lawyer.”

Two other candidates formed committees near the end of their campaigns when they exceeded the $2,000 threshold. Judge Mike Cummins—who legally changed his first name to “Judge” to enhance his chances in running for offices—loaned his committee $2,000 on Jan. 27; Montalban amassed $29,675.00 since Jan. 19, including $2,500 from himself, $1,500 from the Los Angeles Police Protective League, and $500 from former Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley’s firm

Cummins was trounced by Cole and Montalban gained election over attorney Troy Slaten. As of  Feb. 15, Cummins’s committee spent nothing and Montalban’s committee paid out $50.

Victory Predicted

Powell’s victory was, despite her being outspent, predicted by all three anonymous pundits—all experts in judicial elections—whose forecasts were published in the METNEWS on Monday. Powell had the advantage of a ballot designation indicating she is a prosecutor and the benefit of being a woman, having solid LGBT support and the endorsement of the Los Angeles County Democratic Party.

Those factors overcame Reuben’s spending, heavy use of slate mailers, services of a professional campaign consultant, and his endorsement by the Los Angeles Times.

Powell said yesterday:

“I am grateful for the opportunity to serve as a Los Angeles Superior Court Judge and that Mr. Reuben ran an honorable campaign based on what he had to offer as a well qualified candidate. I am thankful for the support of a diverse group of organizations and individuals, including the METNEWS.”

Reuben remarked:

“Today’s election results highlight the advantage that government prosecutors have in California elections, an advantage that has been enhanced by the unfairness of the law regarding ballot designations.

“It was not race or sex or money or age or endorsements or education or any other factor that can explain the complete dominance of district attorneys in this judicial race. Notably, the only two DDAs that did not win were beaten either by another DDA or an Assistant Attorney General—which sounds like a higher level of prosecutor.

“Unfortunately, this trend ensures that the bench will continue to be dominated by prosecutors, many of whom have no more than 10-15 years of experience and have never handled anything other than criminal prosecutions.”

Comments on Results

•Emily Cole said:

“I am humbled and honored to receive such overwhelming support.

“Seeing this overwhelming victory really speaks to the integrity of the electorate in taking voting seriously and being aware of what is happening even in nonpartisan down ballot contests.”

•Berger commented:

“I am delighted to have emerged from this three-way race well ahead in first place. I offer my sincere thanks and deep appreciation to all who supported my candidacy, whether by endorsement, contribution, or vote. Of course it would have been preferable to have won outright, however, when there are two Deputy District Attorneys in the same race, it inevitably splits the vote. Nevertheless, the margin of victory over Mr. McKay, and the likelihood that those who supported Rini will support me, bodes well for November.”

•Fuller remarked:

“It is a tremendous honor and privilege to have been elected to the bench. My family and I are truly humbled and eternally grateful for the opportunity that the people of Los Angeles County have given me.

“I would like to thank all of those who stuck by me and supported me in this effort. Words cannot express my gratitude. Having been through this process before I can attest to how difficult and exhausting it is.

“I would like to express profound respect for not only my opponents but the rest of the candidates in all of the races who regardless of the outcome had the courage to put their hearts out there on the line to pursue their dreams and to stand for justice. Thank you!”

•Montalban had this to say:

“I would like to humbly thank the voters of Los Angeles County. I am honored by the support that I have received throughout my campaign from my family, friends, colleagues, organizations and citizens of our county. I’d also like to thank the well-founded news agencies like Los Angeles Times, METNEWS, Daily Journal and The Los Angeles Sentinel for your informed coverage. I’m especially thankful for the support and trust I received from…judicial officers who have dedicated their lives to public service. I look forward to joining their dedication to the community as a Superior Court Judge.”

•Almada, with 52.49 percent as of yesterday’s tally, was cautious, saying:

“I am excited about the reported results thus far, and hope the numbers hold.”

Below is a tally of votes, according to figures available at press time. Expenditures are for 2019 through Feb. 15 of this year.

 

 

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