Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Tuesday, January 30, 2024


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John McKinney Is Overwhelming Favorite of Deputy D.A.s

Of 355 Ballots Cast Online, Gascón Receives 1.7 Percent


By a MetNews Staff Writer


Los Angeles Deputy District Attorney John McKinney is overwhelmingly favored by the county’s prosecutors to head their office, a plebiscite reveals, with McKinney attracting 67.4 percent of the 355 ballots cast, and incumbent George Gascón drawing only 1.7 percent.

The plebiscite was conducted by a 13-member group calling itself Ethical D.A.s, headed by Deputy District Attorney John Lewin. It acted, Lewin said yesterday, in response to an endorsement on Dec. 20 by the Association of Deputy District Attorneys’ Board of Directors of Eric Siddall, who was the ADDA’s vice president until he announced his candidacy.

There are “less than 10 people” on the board, Lewin noted.

He complained that the ADDA refused to urge participation in the plebiscite and will not announce the results.

The tallying of online votes was done by Simply Voting Inc., a Montreal-based company. Lewin noted that its services have been utilized by the ADDA.

His comments yesterday to the MetNews appear below.

Siddall Places Second

In the plebiscite—the results of which were released Sunday—Siddall came in second, with 15.3 percent of the votes, and with Deputy District Attorneys Maria Ramirez receiving 12.4 percent and Jonathan Hatami attaining 2.3 percent.

Two other deputy district attorneys are running, but are not major contenders. Lloyd Masson received one vote—which amounts to 0.3 percent—and Dan Kapelovitz had none.

Trailing Gascón (with six votes), in addition to Masson and Dan Kapelovitz, were candidates outside the office: former Assistant U.S. Attorney General Nathan Hochman, 1.4 percent; Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Craig Mitchell, 1.1 percent; former Los Angeles Superior Court Judge David S. Milton, 0.3 percent; Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Debra Archuleta, 0.3 percent; Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeff Chemerinsky of the Central District of California, 0.3 percent.

Letter to Lewin

The ADDA’s executive director, Melanie Bartlett, said in a letter to Lewin on Jan 17:

“During this most critical election season, the ADDA’s Endorsement Committee engaged in a lengthy evaluation process, pursuant to the union’s Endorsement Protocol, to determine which District Attorney candidate to endorse. Committee members and our Board devoted hundreds of hours of volunteer time to this endeavor. Based on the Committee’s recommendations, the ADDA Board made its endorsement, which we detailed in our December 20, 2023 communication to members.

“The ADDA Board has carefully considered and discussed your request to announce and publicize your plebiscite vote and has decided to take no action. We strongly encourage all ADDA members, District Attorney Office staff, their friends, their family, and all eligible Los Angeles County voters to vote in the upcoming March 5 primary election. We hope the ‘Ethical DA’ group will do the same. This office and our colleagues should not be made to suffer four more years of George Gascon’s destructive, anti-union administration.”

ADDA’s Announcement

The ADDA said, in announcing the board’s endorsement of Siddall:

“Winning this race will not be easy. George Gascón has never lost an election. And no matter how unpopular he is, he will have a legion of deep-pocketed donors by his side, each willing to invest millions of dollars to support him and his candidacy.

“Eric Siddall is not new to this political battle; he’s been waging it for years. We believe that he has the necessary political acumen, policy depth, and prosecutorial experience to take the fight directly to Gascón this November, to beat him in the general election, and, once elected, to move the District Attorney’s Office forward in a new, constructive, and modern direction.”

The announcement said that Siddall “stands apart” from his opponents, but hailed Hatami “for his passion, hustle, grit, and commitment to child victims,” McKinney “for his talent in court and eloquence on the debate stage” and Ramirez “for her tireless and dedicated service to our office.”

On Feb. 22, 2022, the ADDA announced the results of a plebiscite showing that 97.9 percent of members casting ballots— 83.3 percent of its more than 800 members—favored the ouster of Gascón by voters.

Hochman’s Finances

The committee for Hochman announced Jan. 3 that it had raised $1.25 million through Dec. 31 and said on Jan. 22 that it had begun began airing a television campaign commercial as “the first salvo in a $1 million television advertising campaign.” It contains this message:

“District Attorney George Gascon brought failed San Francisco politics to Los Angeles, sparking rampant smash-and-grab robberies, an explosion of overdose deaths, condemning the homeless to die on the streets.

“Enough is Enough.

“I’m Nathan Hochman….As an independent district attorney, I’ll get politics out of the D.A.’s Office and restore public safety. This is my promise: I’ll do the job and make L.A. County safer. No politics. Just results.”

 Hatami’s Fundraising

Hatami’s committee said Jan. 26 that it has raised $552,139.49. He commented:

“I’m a long-time county prosecutor, military veteran, and father of two who came from humbled beginnings and put myself through college with financial aid, pell grants and the G.I. Bill. Roxanne and I bought our home through the VA Home Loan program, we are products of public school, and our children attend public school. I didn’t enter this race with a vast network of wealthy family connections. I’m so incredibly proud of our grassroots campaign where we’ve received nearly 1,000 contributions totaling over half a million dollars.”

He continued:

“We are currently closing in on $600,000, with hundreds of thousands in cash on hand to fund our final push to the March 5 primary election. And, we have done this without a single loan or personal candidate contribution to our campaign. No other challenger can say that. I want to personally thank each and every one of you who donated, I’m honored by your trust and support in me. Ballots come out in less than two weeks. Let’s go out and win this primary and beat Gascon once and for all. Together!”

Digital Ad

Siddall’s committee yesterday released a digital ad in which Siddall says:

“Across L.A. County — George Gascón — has failed us.

“I’m Eric Siddall—and as D.A.—I’ll turn the tide on violent crime.

“As a violent crimes prosecutor—I’ve taken on the toughest cases.

“Put a cop killer, child molesters, serial rapists and sexual predators — behind bars.

“Taken down violent street gangs—responsible for dozens of murders.

“Put members of the Mexican Mafia—and MS-13—behind bars.

“As D.A.—I’ll focus on the most dangerous criminals:

“Organized crime leaders. Violent gangs. And drug traffickers.

“Target smash and grabs—hate crimes—and work with businesses to prosecute retail thieves.

“We will do all of this—while also reducing homelessness by collaborating with homeless courts—connecting the unhoused with mental health services and permanent housing to clean up our streets.

“The people of L.A. County—deserve change.

“As D.A.—I’ll deliver it.”

Partisan Campaign

Although the office of district attorney is a nonpartisan one, Chemerinsky is running as a Democrat—as Gascón did four years ago. A Jan. 22 press release from his campaign committee says:

“Chemerinsky is the only challenger to be endorsed by Democratic clubs and has established himself as the top Democratic challenger in the race for District Attorney.”

A Nov. 29 press release tells of the endorsement of Chemerinsky by former Los Angeles County District Attorney Ira Reiner, saying:

“With this endorsement, Chemerinsky becomes the only Democratic candidate for DA to earn the endorsement of a previous LA County DA.:

Hochman is endorsed by former Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley, but Hochman is registered as an independent.

The Los Angeles County Democratic Party has endorsed Gascón, as did the Los Angeles Times.




(Below is Deputy District Attorney John Lewin’s explanation of why a need was perceived to poll the county’s deputy district attorneys on their preference among the 12 candidates for Los Angeles County district attorney on the March 5 ballot.)

I am a nearly 30-year veteran of the L.A. County D.A.’s office and have always been a proud member and supporter of the ADDA. I was also an original member of the association which existed prior to the ADDA. 

I am also one of the founders of a group within the office called Ethical D.A.s, which was created in early 2021 in response to George Gascón announcing and implementing his dangerous and at times illegal policies. Ethical D.A.s was not created to support any particular candidate and has individuals who run the group who favor more than one candidate in the upcoming election. We have never as a group sent out one email in support of any candidate and have consistently operated in a non-political manner. 

We did not want to have to initiate this plebiscite. We were compelled to do so when the ADDA Board, which was composed of less than 10 people, (several of whom, including the president of the association were already supporting one candidate-an individual who was the vice president of the ADDA and who had improperly remained in that position for more than a year after he had told numerous people that he was running and was well known to be running for D.A.) decided to endorse that candidate without a vote of the membership. This was a decision that reeked of a conflict of interest, and one in which they had been repeatedly advised was not only inappropriate, but unnecessary prior to the March primary, because there were four current prosecutors running and no one had any idea who was going to make it into the general election in November. Unfortunately, all of our concerns (including the obvious conflict of interest with the vice president who was clearly running for D.A., but improperly remaining in that position while he delayed his formal announcement) were ignored. 

Permitted by Bylaws

Even then, we held off running the plebiscite hoping that the ADDA board would eventually understand and acknowledge the conflict. I remained in close contact with two of the individuals on the board, both of whom I respect very much and hoping against hope that they would ultimately delay the endorsement. When I brought up all of these concerns to these individuals, I was met with the repeated refrain that the bylaws allow the board to endorse, but there was little acknowledgment of the inherent conflict of interest in what was a less than transparent endorsement process. 

Sometime during the holidays, I was contacted by these two board members and told that they could no longer guarantee that an endorsement was not imminent. This is when we formalized the plebiscite and announced it through an Ethical D.A.s email. 

Our goal from the start was to give every prosecutor in the office, below the rank of bureau director, whether they were a member of the ADDA or not, the opportunity to vote. Unfortunately, we did not have the personal emails for every prosecutor, so we reached out to the ADDA for their assistance. They refused to provide any assistance. They refused to even announce the plebiscite in their weekly newsletter, and refused to encourage their members to participate.

Candidates Contacted 

We also attempted to reach out to the four prosecutors in the office who are running for D.A. We asked them for their assistance in encouraging their supporters to vote. We asked them for any email addresses they could provide which could assist us in the process of contacting every eligible voter in the office. I will not discuss the specific responses from each of the candidates, but suffice it to say each one of them knew well in advance that we were having this plebiscite and each was given the opportunity to assist us in the process and notify and rally their supporters to vote. What they chose to do with that information, you will have to ask each one of them. 

As a group, Ethical D.A.s worked extremely hard to get the message out about the plebiscite through every means possible. In the end, we were able to obtain approximately 527 personal emails out of the approximately 750 DDAs who would’ve been eligible to vote. Many of us made calls and sent texts to as many of our colleagues as we could find urging them to vote. I myself contacted dozens of people, which included known supporters of every candidate, people whom I knew had given money or attended fundraisers for each of the candidates. 

We were all very clear that we were urging people to vote, not to vote for any particular candidate, but simply to vote! 

Although I have been a very public supporter of John McKinney, I never told people during these conversations, or during these texts who I was supporting unless they specifically asked (I have these texts which corroborate this statement). I know that the other members of Ethical D.A.s did the same thing. Neither John McKinney, nor any of his people, had any involvement in the plebiscite.

Professional Voting Outfit 

The plebiscite was conducted through Simply Voting, the same professional voting organization that the ADDA has used in their past elections. None of us had the ability to see who was voting for any candidate and we did not learn of the results until after the election ended yesterday evening. 

The bottom line is this. We conducted this plebiscite because the ADDA had a compromised endorsement process which led to their endorsement of a candidate, who not only had an unfair advantage, but who was not the choice of the prosecutors in this office. We conducted a completely fair and above-board election and in the end, approximately 75% of the prosecutors in the office had the opportunity to vote and 355 of them exercised that opportunity. 

I have no idea whether the results of this plebiscite will influence the election next month or not, or whether any of the four candidates, or even if the current district attorney will advance to the general election in November.  What I do know is that we conducted a fair election and that the lawyers in this office have spoken and the results unequivocally demonstrate that John McKinney is their overwhelming choice. 


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