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The Race For California Attorney General

Audio

The front-runners for the California Attorney General's Democratic nomination are a district attorney and a former Facebook executive. We're joined on Morning Edition by nonpartisan Sacramento political consultant Leo McElroy.

Special Feature KPBS Election Coverage

The front-runners for the California Attorney General's Democratic nomination are a district attorney and a former Facebook executive. We're joined on Morning Edition by nonpartisan Sacramento political consultant Leo McElroy.

DWANE BROWN (Host): The Democrat front-runners in next Tuesday’s race for California attorney general are a district attorney and a former Facebook executive. We’re joined on Morning Edition by non-partisan Sacramento political consultant Leo McElroy. San Francisco DA Kamala Harris and ex-Facebook exec Chris Kelly aren’t playing nice Leo. What are some of the dynamics outside of the fact that both are Democrats in this race?

LEO MCELROY (Non-partisan political consultant): Well the dynamics are a little bit like a marathon race. You’ve got a mob running and you never know who is going to get jostled in the course of the running. I think going in people would have looked at this and said that the front-runners would have been Kamala Harris, the DA in San Francisco and probably Rocky Delgadillo – who had run for the office before and is a former Los Angeles city attorney. But you’ve got three Democratic lawmakers who are running – one from the Bay Area, one from Los Angeles and one from the central coast – all of them trying to find jobs now that they’re being termed out. And then in the middle of these here comes the Facebook executive Chris Kelly, whose got a lot of money and who’s gone on the attack against Kamala Harris, particularly over some scandals involving tainted witnesses in criminal cases in the Bay Area and over her criticized failure to have a policy to disclose to people that there were tainted witnesses involved in their cases. So it’s really the whole chemistry upside down and inside out and with that much of a mob, it’s more a question of who’s going to get mowed down than who’s going to win.

PAMELA DAVIS (Host): What about the other candidates, how do they shape up?

MCELROY: Well, you look at them and you don’t see anybody bouncing out of the pack there. Over on the Republican side it’s a much smaller race and the obvious front-runner – again, another sitting DA - Steve Cooley, the district attorney of Los Angeles, who is under attack by a couple of – a former lawmaker and a law prof. The attack on Cooley is centered on the fact that he’s been critical of the Three Strikes law, which is a little tough for a Republican maybe to get around. But Cooley has insisted that his office will not prosecute Three Strike cases if they think the third strike is not the kind of offense that warrants that sort of prosecution. To many people that’s common sense but as I say in a Republican primary that could take him back down and bring him back to the rest of the pack. This is one of those races where you don’t see any odds being quoted in Las Vegas that I know of. And Chris Kelly’s money has just really complicated and evened-out the race over on the Democratic side.

BROWN: Well speaking of money Leo California Controller John Chiang says he may have to issue more IOU’s to deal with the $19 billion state budget gap. Is that another way of saying forget about coming up with a budget deal anytime soon?

MCELROY: Well I think it’s a pretty likely one yeah. I would say that any statement that says “may issue IOU’s” is probably the biggest understatement of the year. There is no sign of a budget deal on the horizon. There is no light on the horizon at all. And as a result, I think we have to face the fact that this state is very likely going to be right back in the printing IOU’s business again. No consensus at all is emerging in the Legislature and both sides are digging in very stubbornly. The Democrats are saying no were not going to cut services to those in the greatest need. And the Republicans are saying we’re not going to raise taxes. And the truth is that without doing one you’ve got to do the other.

DAVIS: The bill deadline for clearing house of origin is Friday. How does this tie-in with the frantic scramble to get something going on implementing the healthcare reforms?

MCELROY: Oh, it is really another mob. It makes the race for attorney general look mild by comparison. You’ve got at least 13 or 14 bills coming up that would be implementation of the federal health care legislation in one form or another. A lot of lawmakers are trying to cut themselves a piece of the pie and trying to define themselves as part of the solution here. A lot of very honestly legitimate effort to try to carry-out the concepts that are being pushed in the federal legislation. For example, one bill would require the state to approve before a health insurance company can raise their rates. And this is one of the big fears coming out of the federal legislation, is that it will cause the insurance companies to bounce the rates on their subscribers. This bill would at least give the state a voice in permitting or not permitting them to do that. But you are also seeing bills, there’s one where 30 years since Candie? Lightner? Led the battle to strengthen the laws on drunk driving in California - and there’s a bill up that would allow the driver’s license of a three-time drunken driver to be permanently revoked.

DAVIS: Leo, we’re out of time. Thank you so much.

MCELROY: You bet.

DAVIS: Non-partisan Sacramento political consultant Leo McElroy.

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