LOS ANGELES (CBS) — For the first time in nearly 50 years, the race to be the next Los Angeles County District Attorney does not include an incumbent on the ballot.
Among the six candidates in the historic race, the current City Attorney and five veteran deputy district attorneys with high profile cases under their belt.
All are vying to succeed current D.A. Steve Cooley for the job to lead the largest prosecutorial agency in the nation.
Danette Meyers, a Compton native, has 26 years of experience in the courtroom. She was the prosecutor in the Lindsay Lohan case. Her platform is smart justice to ensure public safety.
“This is somewhere where I want to make an impact as the D.A. of L.A. County. We’ve never had a woman. We’ve never had a person of color. I think it’s 2012. It’s time that we do,” Meyers said.
Known as a modern prosecutor, Alan Jackson was the prosecutor in the Phil Spector trial — the first high profile celebrity conviction in more than 40 years in Los Angeles. His top priority as D.A. is to work with the community to promote and enhance public safety through the criminal justice system.
“I want to make sure that this office stays in the hands of a prosecutor and doesn’t fall into the hands of a politician,” Jackson said.
John Breault is known as the senior deputy D.A. He’s the longest serving prosecutor in the D.A.’s office with 43 years. The 69-year-old supports legalizing marijuana. He believes prosecutors should focus on providing justice and leave the rehabilitation to other county departments.
“What you see is what you get. I’m not a politician. I’m a career deputy D.A. I’m a family man,” Breault said.
Bobby Grace is a native of the Inland Empire. During his 23 years in the D.A.’s office, he has worked the Hardcore Gang Division, family and domestic violence and high-profile Major Crimes Unit. He says he is progressive and wants to increase government transparency.
“I’ve gotten to where I am because of my merit. I believe I’m the candidate that has the experience across the board,” Grace said.
Jackie Lacey is second in command next to Steve Cooley who endorses her. She spent 15 years trying cases including the first hate crime murder and conviction in the history of Los Angeles County — she says she comes with experience and answers.
“I don’t walk with a swagger. I don’t spit and swear. What I do is I go in and I say, ‘How can we solve this problem?’,” Lacey said.
Carmen Trutanich, the presumed front runner in the primary race, declined an interview for this story. The 60-year-old City Attorney has big money supporting his campaign. He could be the next top county prosecutor but if he does not get the necessary 50 percent of the vote in the primary election, there will be a run off.
The June 5 primary election comes at a crucial time. Budget crisis, realignment, early prisoner releases and the November ballot measure to abolish the death penalty in California are all forcing dramatic changes in the criminal justice system.
“I’m not a death penalty advocate one way or the other. My job as I see it as the next District Attorney for Los Angeles County is to enforce the law that the people of the state of California give me,” Jackson said.
“I’m not morally opposed to the death penalty but I am morally opposed to wasting money,” Meyers said.
“What needs to be changed is not throwing out the law. The law is perfectly good,” Breault said.
“The answer isn’t to get rid of the punishment. The issue is how can we make it fair,” Lacey said.
“And if that’s the law in November after the election, I will enforce the law,” Grace said.
And when we asked about the hot bottom controversy of AB109, the Public Safety Realignment, here’s what the candidates had to say:
“My concern about AB109 is that it was passed in a rush. It was signed so quickly,” Lacey said. “I would have liked for them to be some input from the stakeholders and I would have liked for the money to have been there.”
Jackson says he thinks “it was sort of ill-conceived to begin with and I think we can do a lot better job with AB109 if we were to have started over and built the infrastructure necessary.”
“You have something in place right now that folks and the Legislature agreed with,” said Meyers. “So why don’t instead of repealing it, which makes no sense, why don’t we just fix it?”
Each candidate is passionate about their vision as the next District Attorney of Los Angeles County — one of the most prestigious offices within law enforcement and the criminal justice system.
“My reputation in the criminal justice system has been one of someone who is fair, who is honest, who is trustworthy, who does the right thing even though it may have adverse consequences,” Lackey added.
“Every single decision I will make will be for the benefit of the community members that I serve,” Jackson said.
“When there are concerns with respect to law enforcement, when there are concerns with respect to prosecution of high profile cases, the D.A. has to be in the forefront of that and speak to the public. We owe that to the public,” Meyers added.