Incumbents Gelfound, Elswick Prevail, As Does Garnett, Now a U.S. District Court Judge, but Listed on Ballot As Superior Court Judge; Deputy P.D. Hare Is Only Male Who Pulls More Votes Than Female Rival
By a MetNews Staff Writer
Unofficial returns in the nine judicial races in Los Angeles County on Tuesday’s ballot show that 2022 is another “year of the woman,” with voters evincing a decided preference for female candidates.
However, the victories of two of those women might fairly be attributed to a factor other than gender. One, Carol Elswick, is an incumbent on the Los Angeles Superior Court, and the other—Sherilyn Peace Garnett—was identified on the ballot as a judge of that court, though she isn’t; on April 27, subsequent to the ballot information going to the printers, she was confirmed by the U.S. Senate as a judge of the District Court for the Central District of California.
Elswick defeated former Carson Mayor Albert Robles and Garnett won over attorneys Tim Reuben and Frank Amador.
The other challenged incumbent, Judge David B. Gelfound, easily defeated a deputy public defender, Lloyd E. Handler, who maintained that all judges who do not support the lenient sentencing philosophy of persons such as District Attorney George Gascón should be challenged at the polls. That was the only race in which there was no female candidate.
Elswick, Gelfound, and Garnett were the only candidates in two-person races and the only contestants to gain outright victory—though in Garnett’s case, the victory is illusory, with Gov. Gavin Newsom being accorded by voters the power to name Garnett’s successor.
In the six races for open seats, only one male, Deputy Public Defender Patrick Hare, made it into a run-off—for Office No. 151—coming in ahead of Deputy District Attorney Karen A. Brako. Behind them were Deputy District Attorney Richard Quiñones and lawyer Thomas D. Allison.
Deputy Public Defenders
Hare’s first-place showing in the contest for Office No. 151, and that of Deputy Public Defender Holly L. Hancock in the race for Office No. 70, demonstrate that voters are not—as they traditionally have been—turned off by a ballot designation connoting the role of an advocate for persons accused of crimes.
Also, Deputy Public Defender Elizabeth Lashley-Haynes and Deputy District Attorney Fernanda Maria Barreto appear to be neck-and-next for first in a three-person race for Office No. 67. Coming in third is Deputy District Attorney Ryan Dibble.
And Deputy Public Defender Anna Slotky Reitano is headed for a run-off with Deputy District Attorney Abby Baron, who is in first place, for Office No. 60. Behind them, as of mid-afternoon yesterday, were Deputy District Attorney Sharon Ransom, attorney Mark Rosenfeld, and Administrative Law Judge Troy Slaten, a former child actor.
A surprise was the capturing of second place for Office No. 118 by Carolyn “Jiyoung” Park, an obscure Glendale lawyer who mounted a listless campaign and received no endorsement from any judicial officer. Coming in behind Deputy District Attorney Melissa Hammond—and ahead of Deputy District Attorney Keith Koyano, former Deputy District Attorney Georgia Huerta, Administrative Law Judge Klint McKay and lawyer Shawn Thever—Park campaigned in tandem with Hancock, Lashley-Haynes, and Reitano, and was a participant with them in a political action committee.
They termed themselves the “Defenders of Justice.” All four relied heavily on social media.
Deft use of social media has proved, in recent years, more effective than spending large amounts of money on slate mailers—which were particularly inefficacious in 2020 and this year in light of all voters receiving mail-in ballots, because of the pandemic. Slates that are sent out early are not apt to influence those who vote close to election day, and those mailed near the election are useless when directed to those who have already voted.
Although each member of the “Defenders of Justice” made it into a run-off, none of their committees expended a significant amount of money. As of the end of the last reporting period, May 24, the spending was as follows: Hancock, $46,033.64; Lashley-Haynes, $33,445.45; Park, $39,106.87; Reitano, $30,290.85.
This year’s judicial elections, overall, were not marked by heavy spending. Although the cost of judicial campaigns in Los Angeles County have, in past years, typically exceeded $200,000, no committee supporting a candidate for a superior court open seat had expenditures (as of May 24) in six figures—and the candidate whose committee spent the most came in last in his race.
The committee for attorney Nasir Khoury spent $98,778.30—yet, in a four-person race for Office No. 90, he came in fourth. First was Deputy District Attorney Melissa Lyons, whose committee spent $30,561.47, followed by Deputy District Attorney Leslie Gutierrez, whose committee expended only $12,152.26, and third was Deputy Public Defender Kevin Thomas McGurk who formed no committee.
Only three committees spent more than $50,000 in open-seat races: those supporting Dibble ($78,759.23) and Koyano ($51,026.01), who lost, and Hare ($61,641.35) who came in first in his race.
Brako made it into a November run-off although her committee had expenses of only $2,160.95.
Two years ago, Reuben’s committee spent $550,679.30 and the candidate lost in the primary to then-Deputy District Attorney Sherry Powell whose committee paid out only $32,428.66 but made heavy use of social media; this year, Reuben did not even form a committee to take in donations.
One candidate appeared earlier to be preparing to spend large amounts on gaining a judgeship. Long Beach Assistant City Attorney Randy Fudge on Feb. 6 loaned his committee $400,000 but it was apparently a ploy to deter others from entering the race for Office No. 70.
It didn’t work; four others entered the race, and Fudge came in third (behind Hancock and Chang, ahead of attorneys Eric Alfonso Torices and Matthew Vodnoy). He spent $20,619.11.
Although the Los Angeles Judges Election Protection Committee, a political action committee, loaned Gelfound’s campaign $100,000, the candidate loaned it $30,000, and numerous judges made individual contributions, the campaign spent $136,065.07 of the $233,551.00 it received in loans and donations, with $97,485.93 left over
Similarly, Elswick’s committee spent only $71,122.52 of the $208,125.00 it received in the form of contributions and a $100,000 loan from the candidate. (While making a loan to Gelfound, the judges’ PAC made a $65,000 donation to her campaign.)
No committee was formed for Garrett.
Reuben, who heads the West Los Angeles firm of Reuben Raucher & Blum, said of his loss to Garnett in Tuesday’s election:
“While I am disappointed in the results, I am not surprised, since the system is flawed and misleads the voters. I did not intend to run and would not run against a sitting judge who chooses to continue on the bench. But here, Judge Garnett was confirmed to the federal court by the Senate way back in April, and so her name should not have been on the ballot for the LA Superior Court in June. Her ballot designation virtually assured that voters would support her. So the electorate was effectively fooled into thinking they were voting for a competent experienced judge who intended to serve on the Superior Court. That is not the way the system should work.”
“I am encouraged by the early returns. If they hold, I look forward to putting my credentials before the voters again in November. Win or lose, I want to thank everyone who has supported me thus far. I also commend all of the candidates for running a respectful and cordial race. Anybody who has the courage to run has my respect. It is not easy. I wish all the candidates the very best.
“I am proud of the effort I put into this run. No matter what the outcome is, I was in great company. I am also very proud of all the public defenders who ran to offer the voters a different perspective, because every single one of us worked hard for it.
“Leading up to November, I am enthused about talking to voters further. I offer a unique skill set and experience that will be valuable on the bench and am looking forward to the opportunity to share what that means with voters.
“The fact that I continued to work every day in a difficult trial assignment, while campaigning after hours and on weekends as a working mother, is a testament to my work ethic. It also illustrates that grassroots campaigns do offer viable options in elections when a candidate believes in what they have to offer.”
“This has been a wonderful experience. I am very grateful to have participated because I learned more about myself and what I am capable of in the process. The support I have received from colleagues, voters, and friends throughout the past few months was inspiring and kept me going. Sharing this experience with my kids was the icing on the cake.
“I will embrace this opportunity to converse with voters and let them know why we need more diversity of background on the bench because I sincerely believe that it is necessary to maintain integrity and fairness in the courts. The elections for judgeship have gone under the radar for so long, and I hope that this election changes that, fostering more interest in these elections amongst voters and also encourages more public defenders to run in the future.”
The results, as of 4 p.m. yesterday, appear on page 3.
Copyright 2022, Metropolitan News Company