Election Tally Pits Mintz, Roberts in Runoff for Superior Court
By KENNETH OFGANG, Staff Writer
Deputy District Attorney David Mintz and sole practitioner Vicki M. Roberts will square off Nov. 7 for an open seat on the county's newly unified Superior Court, based on final results certified yesterday by the Board of Supervisors.
Mintz finished with 89,042 votes, or 21.22 percent of the total, to Roberts' 86,786, or 20.68 percent, in the official tally of votes cast in the March 7 primary. Superior Court Commissioner John Ladner was third with 85,849—20.46 percent—while Deputy District Attorney David Stuart, Superior Court Commissioner John Slawson, and attorney Ronald Silverton trailed in the former Los Angeles Municipal Court constituency.
While Roberts ended up beating Ladner by 937 votes, earlier counts of absentee and provisional ballots made the race much closer. Roberts led Ladner by 351 votes in the unofficial count at the end of election night, then saw that margin slip below 100 in subsequent counting before surging at the end.
Ladner was philosophical about the defeat, saying he was relieved the race wasn't closer.
"I was feeling worse [when the margin tightened] than I needed to," he told the MetNews. He said he was starting to wonder whether the outcome would have been different "if I'd only made a few more phone calls," but that "now that [the margin is] several hundred, I feel better, in a perverse sort of way, although I do feel disappointed."
Ladner said he would turn his attention to his pending application for appointment to the court, which has 19 vacancies waiting to be filled by the governor. He expressed hope that his strong showing in the election would "have some relevance to an appointment."
Ladner didn't rule out a future race for another open seat if he doesn't get an appointment. The commissioner, who lost in a 1992 contest for the Los Angeles Municipal Court as well as a bid for the state Assembly in 1991, said it was "too early to think about whether I'd go through this process again."
Roberts said she was "tickled pink" to be in the runoff. She said she "wanted to thank my parents, Adele and Stanley Roberts of Long Island, N.Y., who constituted—along with me—the campaign central committee."
Roberts explained that she and her parents, who had just flown in to Los Angeles, composed her official candidate statement the night before it was due at the Registrar/Recorder's Office. The statement was one of the keys to the campaign for Roberts, who didn't have a campaign consultant, lacked endorsements by judges or newspapers, and spent little on the race.
Roberts called the race a "virtual dead heat," pointing to the closeness of her total to that of Mintz. She said she would continue to run without professional advice and rely on her "committee."
"They're free and they really love me," she said of her parents. "At this point I'm not planning on changing the strategy."
Mintz said he would "run an aggressive campaign," focusing on his experience as a 15-year prosecutor and a teacher of trial advocacy at Pepperdine Law School. He eschewed the possibility of an attack on Roberts, who was rated "not qualified" by the County Bar, while Mintz was rated "well qualified."
Mintz said he would make one change, however. After managing the primary campaign himself, he has hired consultant Fred Huebscher.
Mintz noted that Huebscher had managed two prosecutors to victories in multi-candidate races on election day. Katherine Mader defeated two opponents to win the only countywide race on the judicial ballot, while Richard Stone defeated three opponents in the former Beverly Hills Municipal Court constituency.
"I hope his record continues into November," Mintz said. Mintz added that he had received endorsements from Slawson and Stuart and was hopeful of getting Ladner's.
Huebscher, who jocularly pledged to contribute $10,000 to charity if Roberts had won the seat without a runoff—as she predicted early in the campaign—said he feels he has the stronger candidate going into November.
Roberts, he said, made the runoff solely because she was the only woman in the field. That will be far less of an advantage in a head-to-head race than in one with six candidates, Huebscher predicted
Yesterday's certification of the final figures had little impact on the county's eight other judicial races, which were clearly decided according to the preliminary count on election night. Besides Mader and Stone, Deputy District Attorneys Christopher Estes and Patricia Titus won open seats, while Judges Pamela R. Rodgers, Jesse I. Rodriguez, and Richard E. Rico won new terms.
There will be one other runoff, which will take place in the former Alhambra district. Judge John Martinez, who trailed in the primary, faces attorney Maria Vargas-Rodriguez.
Copyright Metropolitan News Company, 2000