3rd District Supervisor Todd Spitzer has been unofficially running against District Attorney Tony Rackauckas for months, and earlier today he made it official by filing his official candidate intention statement and issuing a 4-page press release.
Spitzer opened with a broadside aimed at Rackauckas:
“Every day we read and hear that crime is on the rise in our communities. Under Tony Rackauckas’ failed watch as Orange County District Attorney crime rates have skyrocketed 23 percent in 2015 and there are over three times as many crimes per square mile just in Santa Ana as the rest of California, where shootings alone are up 556% since 2012.
I refuse to stand by as Tony Rackauckas destroys the District Attorney’s office and uses it as his own personal fiefdom for he and his cronies while the public’s safety suffers. I’m proud to announce my campaign for District Attorney and pledge to always uphold the rule of law, put people’s safety first and work tirelessly to make certain justice is served for victims and their families. We must restore faith and trust in our law enforcement and justice system.”
Spitzer’s press release also highlighted his enormous campaign warchest:
“Spitzer launches his campaign with a significant lead over his opponent, Tony Rackauckas, announcing more than $1,261,925 cash on hand compared to the last filing by Rackauckas .”
Spitzer used his six years in the state Assembly to build a million dollar campaign fund, which he has nurtured ever since. It’s sheer size was sufficient to scare a number of candidates out of the race when Spitzer decided to run for a third term on the Board of Supervisors in 2012.
Spitzer has coveted the District Attorney’s office for years. He was weighing a run against Rackauckas in 2006, but backed off in the wake of a massive Rackauckas fundraiser that broadly encompassed the Orange County political establishment.
Spitzer is relentless, energetic and smart, with a mania for press attention. As former OC Register editorialist Steve Greenhut pointed out in a recent column, it is an open secret that the idea of putting the DA’s vast investigative and law enforcement powers into the hands of someone with Spitzer’s temperament is a terrifying one to most people involved in local government and public affairs (and not in a good way).
His campaign treasury and laser focus notwithstanding, Spitzer faces some major obstacles. First and foremost, he isn’t the DA – Tony Rackauckas is. TR and his office are putting criminals in jail, and Spitzer isn’t. The jail-house snitch issue is a convoluted. hard-to-follow story and a political non-starter: given their worries about crime and social disintegration, voters don’t think it’s a big deal.
The issues of temperament and fitness for the job is also a major potential albatrosses around his candidacy’s neck. Thanks to the Voice of OC’s doggedness, we now know that Spitzer believed he would have been justified in using deadly force against the Christian guy who approach Spitzer at Wahoo’s Fish Taco on Good Friday to talk to him about the Bible. It’s crazy enough that Spitzer responded to the pestering invasion of personal space by grabbing his gun, cuffing the man and then calling in sheriff’s deputies. It’s even crazier that he believed shooting him would have been justified. It’s a very real question whether voters will entrust the District Attorney’s powers to a man who would consider using deadly force in such a situation.
Furthermore, Spitzer’s efforts to cast himself as tougher-on-crime than Rackauckas runs up against the county’s total paralysis in the face of the exploding homeless encampments along the Santa Ana River – which are entirely within Spitzer’s supervisor district. These encampments are increasingly becoming bases of operations for criminals released from state prison thanks for progressive “reform” measures. They’re illegal, yet the county is afraid to duke it out with the ACLU in order to enforce the law. Spizter himself has difficulty deciding whether he is Mother Theresa or Elliot Ness when it comes to this issue, which is major and growing voter issue. Spitzer’s campaign website claims he is “solving homelessness” – even as the camps grow and the problem impacts more and more neighborhoods and businesses.
How does one campaign as tough on crime but fail to enforce the law vis-a-vis illegal homeless encampments that serve as crime sanctuaries?
Spitzer’s campaign consultant is Los Angeles-based John Thomas, who appears weekly on the Bill Handel’s KFI morning radio show and who ran 1st District Supervisor Andrew Do’s narrow re-election victory.
This will be a bloody, vicious donnybrook the likes of which OC hasn’t seen in a while.