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Veteran prosecutor Jackie Lacey takes early lead in D.A. race

L.A. County Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley, left, with district attorney candidate Jackie Lacey at her election night party at the Sportsmen's Lodge in Studio City.

Veteran L.A. County prosecutor Jackie Lacey took a quick lead in early voting returns Tuesday in the race for district attorney, with her colleague Alan Jackson narrowly edging out City Atty. Carmen Trutanich for a place in a November runoff.

The count included mail-in ballots turned in before election day and does not include votes cast at the polls Tuesday or absentee ballots dropped off at polling places, an election spokeswoman said.

Six candidates battled to succeed L.A. County Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley, who is retiring this year after serving three terms.

LIVE RESULTS: California primary

The election was the first time in nearly 50 years that an incumbent was not involved in the race to run the most powerful office in the county's criminal justice system -– one responsible for prosecuting roughly 60,000 felony cases a year, including murders, rapes and robberies.

The campaign was marked by unusual agreement on the need for crime prevention programs and rehabilitation of more nonviolent offenders to help keep limited space behind bars for the most serious criminals. But the candidates traded barbs over who would be best suited to lead the office.

Trutanich was considered the early front-runner, facing five career prosecutors largely unknown outside the local criminal justice community. He raised about $1.5 million, far outpacing his rivals. But he also drew fire for several campaign missteps, including his about-face from a pledge he made during the 2009 city attorney's election not to run for higher office until he finished two terms.

Three of the contenders –- Bobby Grace, Lacey and Danette Meyers –- hoped to make history in a county that has never elected a black district attorney, with two of them also aiming to become the first woman to hold the post.

Jackson, best known for his role prosecuting legendary music producer Phil Spector for murder, won endorsements from the county's Republican Party and more than a dozen local police unions. John L. Breault III, 69, is the longest-serving prosecutor in the district attorney's office, which he joined in 1969. ALSO:

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--Jack Leonard

Photo: L.A. County Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley, left, with district attorney candidate Jackie Lacey at her election night party at the Sportsmen's Lodge in Studio City.  Credit: Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times

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