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Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley takes a step toward running for state attorney general

January 11, 2010 |  7:59 am

Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley took a significant step toward joining the race for California attorney general today, announcing he has formed an exploratory committee that allows him to raise money for the campaign.

Cooley, a Republican who has served as L.A.'s top prosecutor since 2000, is among the best-known candidates to make a move to replace Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown, who is expected to run for governor.

In a statement, Cooley, 62, said he had been urged to run by people in law enforcement and others and that he had "the experience and drive to be California's top law enforcement officer."

If Cooley does formally enter the race, he would likely face state Sen. Tom Harman of Huntington Beach for the Republican nomination. Among a crowded field of Democratic hopefuls are San Francisco Dist. Atty. Kamala Harris and former Los Angeles City Atty. Rocky Delgadillo, who has drawn criticism from Cooley in the past.

During his tenure in Los Angeles, Cooley has enjoyed support from both sides of the justice system. Police unions have applauded his public safety record.

And he won the backing of a broad group of defense lawyers who favor his approach to handling cases under the state's three-strikes law -- an issue over which he has clashed with other district attorneys.

While he has generally shunned the limelight, Cooley's public profile grew last year after his office sought the extradition of film director Roman Polanski from Europe to face sentencing in a three-decades-old sex crimes case.

-- Jack Leonard 

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