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District Attorney Dumanis Re-Elected, Defeats 2 Challengers

Photo caption:

Photo by Angela Carone

District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis, at the U.S. Grant Hotel in downtown San Diego, reacts to the first returns, June 3, 2014.


San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis won 55 percent of the vote to avoid a runoff in November's general election.

After running unopposed in the past two elections, San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis has staved off a bid by two opponents to force her into a November runoff election.

Dumanis had 55 percent of the vote. Veteran attorney and former federal prosecutor Bob Brewer had about 35 percent, with former county prosecutor Terri Wyatt checking in with 10 percent.

Dumanis appeared briefly to thank supporters Tuesday night; her backers chanted "four more years!" She told KPBS that voters seem to like and trust her, and she remains focused on the job and not the at times nasty campaign against her.

Brewer, her chief opponent, said he had hoped later returns during the evening would push her total down below 50 percent — but that appeared highly unlikely. Percentages remained unchanged during several vote-total updates throughout the evening.

The race heated up in the 24 hours before Election Day with Dumanis put on the spot again over a campaign-finance scandal that broke early this year regarding her failed race for San Diego mayor in 2012.

Federal-court documents revealed the group "San Diegans for Bonnie Dumanis for Mayor 2012" accepted $100,000 from a foreign national. Such a contribution is illegal under U.S. law. The man behind the contributions is Mexican businessman Jose Susumo Azano. Federal prosecutors have accused him of illegally contributing $600,000 to San Diego politicians, including Dumanis.

On the eve of Tuesday's election, a story broke in the scandal: It was revealed in a court hearing that Dumanis wrote a letter, on district attorney letterhead, to University of San Diego President Mary Lyons urging her to grant Azano's son, Edward Susumo Azano, admission to USD.

Brewer was in federal court urging a judge to release the full letter. The judge declined but confirmed the nature and purpose of the letter. The development created a political problem for Dumanis. She had stated publicly that she remembered little from a meeting with Azano at his Coronado house during her failed mayoral campaign: "No promises were asked for, nothing was asked for, and if it had been asked for, I would have kicked him to the curb."

The letter to USD on behalf of Azano's son was dated Sept. 28, 2012, about three months after Dumanis finished fourth in the primary race for mayor.

Brewer and Wyatt attempted to get traction from the campaign-finance scandal during the months leading up to Tuesday's vote. But it appears extensive TV ads — especially from Brewer — failed to have a large enough impact to keep Dumanis from re-election.

Dumanis became district attorney in 2003 after defeating incumbent Paul Pfingst in a spirited campaign. In the 2006 and 2010 elections, she ran unopposed.

The incumbent said in a KPBS broadcast debate that she is passionate about public safety. She pointed out that crime is at historic lows in San Diego County and violent crime is at its second-lowest rate in the past 30 years.

Sheriff Bill Gore and many of the region’s top political office-holders backed Dumanis.

She landed an endorsement from U-T San Diego, whose editorial began with the line, “Bonnie Dumanis is not the best politician in town…” and then concluded the opening paragraph with, “She deserves re-election to a fourth term as San Diego County’s top prosecutor.”

Just three months after taking office in her third term, Dumanis kicked off an unsuccessful campaign for San Diego mayor. She finished fourth in the June 2012 primary election. Dumanis said that result sent her a strong message: that city residents like her better as a district attorney.

Her two opponents said she had made her office too political.

Brewer said during a debate on KPBS that Dumanis made a “bad error in judgment” by running for mayor.

Brewer entered the race with years of experience as a criminal defense attorney, as a deputy district attorney in Los Angeles and as a federal prosecutor there.

He boasted endorsements from the Deputy Sheriffs' Association and the San Diego Police Officers Association. In all, more than 20 law enforcement groups backed Brewer's campaign. He also got votes of support from four former U.S. attorneys.

Wyatt entered the race after serving as a county prosecutor for nearly 27 years — the last several working under Dumanis.

"I think people are tired of career politicians as public officials, and I think a career prosecutor ought to lead this office," Wyatt said in the KPBS debate.

She promised to expand juvenile justice programs, boost efforts to combat gang violence and family violence, and expand the elder-abuse protection program.

Wyatt’s website listed several endorsements from former law enforcement officers.

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