D.A. Steve Cooley won't run for 4th term; he endorses deputy district attorney Jacquelyn Lacey
Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley said Tuesday that he would not run for a fourth term as the county's top prosecutor, ending intense speculation as a crowded field of candidates vies to succeed him.
Cooley had remained coy for months about his political future, and his decision promises to have a dramatic effect on the 2012 campaign, which includes several hopefuls who promised to pull out of the race if Cooley ran again.
Cooley told The Times that many of his law enforcement supporters encouraged him to seek reelection but that he decided instead to help Chief Deputy Dist. Atty. Jacquelyn Lacey in her bid to become the first African American and first woman to hold the post.
“When I complete this term, I will be 65 1/2 years old,” Cooley said in a phone interview. “I will have 39 years and 10 months of public service. There’s a sense of wanting to leave on top.”
Cooley, a Republican who narrowly lost a bid to become state attorney general last year, was first elected district attorney in 2000, beating incumbent Gil Garcetti for the non-partisan post. In 2008, Cooley became the first person in more than 70 years to win three terms as L.A. County district attorney.
Cooley said the decision against seeking reelection was easy one once Lacey convinced him she was serious about her campaign. Earlier this year, Cooley promoted Lacey to the No. 2 position in the D.A.’s office.
Lacey is running against several other veteran county prosecutors, including Bobby Grace, Alan Jackson, Danette Meyers and Mario Trujillo. All but Meyers have said they would stand down if Cooley were to run for another term.
Earlier this week, Steve Ipsen, the former head of the county prosecutors’ union who ran an unsuccessful election challenge to Cooley in 2008, announced he was campaigning for the office again.
Meanwhile, Los Angeles City Atty. Carmen Trutanich has set up an exploratory committee and previously said he is interested in a run if Cooley decided not to seek another term.
Cooley said he respected some of the other candidates’ accomplishments as prosecutors but believed that Lacey had the management experience necessary to run the largest local prosecutorial agency in the country.
He said he had advised Trutanich against a run for district attorney but that the two remained friends.
“I’ve told him over the last several months that he should remain city attorney and not run for D.A.,” Cooley said. “He knows exactly my feelings on that.”
Cooley said he could not rule out changing his mind and running for another term if Lacey for some reason pulled out of the race. But he said he was advising his longtime supporters to back Lacey.
“I feel very comfortable clearing the decks for her,” he said. “It’s hard for her to be calling likely supporters when they respond to her with, ‘What is Steve going to do?’”
-- Jack Leonard
Photo credit: Los Angeles Times