Six Are Apparently Headed for Election to Superior Court
By Roger M. Grace
The Los Angeles Times’s endorsements in judicial races, after years of having a waning influence on election outcomes as voters relied increasingly on slate mailers, are again being heeded by the electorate, with all six candidates for Los Angeles Superior Court open seats appearing to have prevailed in Tuesday’s run-off.
Not all ballots are in—they are only required to have been postmarked by Nov. 8 to be counted—but it appears that Deputy District Attorneys Abby Baron, Fernanda Maria Barreto, Melissa Lyons, and Melissa Hammond and Deputy Public Defenders Holly L. Hancock and Patrick Hare have prevailed.
Only in the contest between Barreto and Deputy Public Defender Elizabeth Lashley-Haynes is there less than a 10-point spread. With the possible exception of that race, a turnabout appears doubtful.
The tally, as of mid-afternoon yesterday, appears in a box below.
The Times’s influence has rebounded as slate mailers have become virtually obsolete. They typically arrived in homes right before election day but since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, most ballots have been cast by mail, in advance of that day, resulting in negligible use of such mailers by candidates in this county for judgeships.
Deputy Public Defenders
Hancock and Hare has each seemingly defeated a deputy district attorney, indicating that the position of a prosecutor does not have the impact it formerly did.
Those apparent victories have an additional significance. Over the past several elections, a Hispanic name has been a plus and, more recently—including in the primary—female candidates have been favored.
However, returns presage that Lyons has defeated Deputy District Attorney Leslie Gutierrez and Hare has prevailed over Deputy District Attorney Karen A. Brako.
The figures also suggest that while “money talks,” the Times again, as in years past, speaks, through its endorsements, more loudly. “Justice PAC By la Defensa, a Project of Tides Advocacy” a group favoring left-of-center candidates—with funding remotely tied to billionaire financier George Soros—devoted $473,552 to the effort of four Los Angeles Superior Court candidates running, as a team, terming themselves, the “Defenders of Justice.”
Of those four, the only one who won, barring a surprise upset, is Hancock. She was endorsed by the Times (which had recommended her election in a previous effort that failed).
Apparently losing, despite that funding, are Defenders of Justice members Lashley-Haynes; Deputy Public Defender Anna Slotky Reitano, who opposed Baron; and Carolyn “Jiyoung” Park, a lawyer with a scant legal practice who vied with Hammond.
Political Consultant Comments
Political consultant Fred Huebscher, who has handled numerous judicial campaigns, remarked:
“Defenders of Justice made a very poor choice in supporting Carolyn ‘Jiyoung’ Park. Since Hammond is getting around 66% of the vote (the highest percentage of any of the judicial candidates), it’s obvious Ms. Park lost the election on June 7. She had a Pyrrhic victory and that and $2 will buy one a cup of coffee.”
“Why Park would make her name so ethnic sounding by using the nickname is beyond me since Park is a Korean surname and she didn’t need to make sure Koreans knew she was Korean-American. If Defenders of Justice had been my client, I would have advised them not to spend one penny on her.”
“Also, of the two public defenders who will win, Mr. Hare was not even endorsed by the group. It will be interesting to see if in the 2024 judicial elections public defenders decide to run again. After all, winning two of six races is not such a bad number given that prosecutors seems to always have an advantage.”
He said with respect to Chang:
“I suspect Ms. Chang’s weak showing is due to her unusual middle name which enhances her Chinese surname. Unfortunately many voters vote by name and occupation and no other information and those voters tend to have biases such as feeling uncomfortable with people from other countries or persons of color. These voters are not likely to vote for ‘foreign sounding names’ such as ‘Renee Yolande Chang.’ And so her name overshadowed her good ballot designation of deputy district attorney. Ms. Hancock was also endorsed by the L.A. Times and County Federation of Labor.”
Huebscher correctly predicted the winners in five of the six contests.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Randolph Hammock successfully predicted the winners in each of the judicial contests in the primary and the general election. The judge, who is presently on a Caribbean cruise, reflected yesterday:
“It was a combination of decades of following these elections, personally meeting many of the candidates, but most of all, lucky guesses on the close ones. I had a hunch about Hancock and Hare winning, despite the fact that a deputy public defender has never won a LASC race since unification. Times are a changing.”
“Slates seem to have lost much of its edge. Gender is becoming a more important factor toward woman candidates. Of course, it still is very difficult for someone from the private sector to win—the last being in 2006 when Lynn Olson defeated the incumbent (Dzintra Janavs) with the simple ballot designation of “Attorney at Law.”
“Be that as it may, the stranglehold that has been held by the deputy district attorneys for decades may be loosening a bit. Surprisingly, a Hispanic name still doesn’t seem to have the voter appeal that logic would dictate in this county.
“As in all elections, the best candidate doesn’t necessarily win. But let’s give the voters some credit, they get it right more than wrong. That’s Democracy.
“That’s my two cents. I suspect that this is perhaps what it is worth.”
Litz’s ‘Two Cents’
Political consultant Crystal Litz said she believes that her clients Lyons and Hare have won, and remarked:
“I’m very pleased with the outcome of the judicial races—the voters chose qualified people over slogans and gimmicks.”
She expressed doubt that Lashley-Haynes will catch up to Barreto, adding:
“The ‘legion of doom,’ AKA the ‘Defenders of Justice,’ have for the most part, been soundly rejected.”
“I understand there are votes still out, but given the current results, I feel very optimistic and I am excited about the prospect of serving Los Angeles County as a Superior Court Judge.”
Lyon’s opponent, Gutierrez, remarked:
“I would like to congratulate the newly elected judges. I have no doubt that they will make fantastic additions to the LA County bench.”
Hammond’s victory was the most decisive. She is currently ahead of her opponent by more than 30 points.
“First of all, I want to wish my opponent the very best. She ran a strong campaign that she can be proud of. I admire and respect her commitment to her values.”
The candidate added:
“While many votes are yet to be counted, the current margin does appear to be decisive. I am humbled to be elected and will do my utmost to reward the electorate’s faith in me. Thank you so much to everyone who has supported my candidacy. I dedicate the victory to my grandmother, Anna Pressberg, who we sadly lost a couple of weeks ago. She has been my guiding light.”
Hammond observed that “[t]here were some extremely worthy candidates who missed out this year that I commiserate with, especially Renee Chang, Sharon Ransom and Ryan Dibble.”
Ransom and Dibble are deputy district attorneys who lost in the primary.
Barreto had this to say:
“I am extremely proud of the small, grassroots campaign we ran and thankful to the amazing group of people who supported me. I am grateful for their faith in me and my commitment to ensuring access to justice for everyone, regardless of background or socioeconomic status. I am humbled by the number of votes I have received and will remain optimistic as I watch the returns come in over the next several days.”
Copyright 2022, Metropolitan News Company