Los Angeles County District Attorney candidates clash during first debate


The focus of the debate was on crime and it was hosted by the Los Angeles County Organization of Police and Sheriffs. In their first face-to-face debate since the June 5 primary, the candidates each touted their experience as the reason why they should be elected.

"That choice is going to come down to this: An 18-year battle-tested veteran prosecutor...versus an office administrator who hasn't set foot in a courtroom in 12 or 15 years," said gang prosecutor Alan Jackson.

Jackie Lacey, who holds the No. 2 post in the L.A. County District Attorney's Office, said her courtroom experience has never left her.

"It is demeaning to say that that leadership position -- the very position my opponent wants -- is just an administrator," said Lacey.

Lacey is a Democrat, although this race is nonpartisan. She won 32 percent of the vote in the primary. Jackson, a Republican, came in second with 24 percent, both knocking out their better known and better funded rival, L.A. City Attorney Carmen Trutanich. Now the two contenders are trying to define their positions for the voters.

On the issue of realignment -- the early release of prisoners -- both candidates agree that it's a public safety issue.

"We are letting people out on the streets without proper supervision," said Jackson.

On Proposition 34, a move to abolish the death penalty in the state, Lacey said there are "some cases where it's the appropriate punishment," and Jackson said it "serves an important part of our justice system."

But not all the debate was about issues. It got personal when Lacey challenged Jackson's use of the title "gang prosecutor" instead of calling himself the Assistant Head Deputy of the Major Crimes Division.

"I think it's a reflection of the ego of the person. So why aren't you using your accurate title?" Lacey asked Jackson.

He replied, "So now you're the prosecutor and I'm the administrator."

There seemed to be equal support in the audience for both candidates. But with less than three months to go until the runoff election to succeed Steve Cooley, Jackson is leading in fundraising efforts so far with more than $380,000, compared to Lacey's $70,000.

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