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Jackie Lacey extends lead in L.A. County district attorney race

November 6, 2012 | 10:38 pm

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Veteran prosecutor Jackie Lacey jumped to an early lead Tuesday in her bid to become Los Angeles County's first female and first African American district attorney.

Lacey led rival Alan Jackson by 56% to 44% in the runoff after election officials released early tallies for mail-in ballots turned in before election day as well as a tiny fraction of votes cast at the polls.

Lacey has the support of her boss, Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley, who is retiring after three terms. Jackson, a star trial attorney in the office, is best known for his successful murder prosecution of music producer Phil Spector.

VIDEO: L.A. voters discuss 2012 election

As the first results were released, Jackson reassured supporters during his election night party at the Elevate Lounge on Wilshire Boulevard in downtown L.A. He said he expected that a television ad campaign aimed at election day voters, rather than those casting absentee ballots, would put him ahead in later results.

"We expect to win the race through the poll vote," he said. "We're expecting that these numbers are going to change very, very quickly."

The election marks the first time in nearly 50 years that an incumbent is 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.

Both candidates raised more than $1 million, and the campaign was at times bitterly fought.

PHOTOS: California voters head to polls

Lacey, 55, touted herself as the only candidate with the experience to run the office of about 1,000 prosecutors. Cooley selected her as chief deputy – the No. 2 position in the office – in March 2011, shortly before announcing his own plans to retire.

While the position is nonpartisan, Lacey, a registered Democrat, picked up a slew of endorsements from prominent Democratic politicians, including California Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

Jackson, a registered Republican, had the support of the county’s prominent Republican politicians, including U.S. Rep. Howard P. “Buck” McKeon, former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan and county Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich.

Jackson, 47, pointed to his credentials as a frontline prosecutor, saying he had the on-the-ground experience needed to run a modern district attorney’s office.

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--Jack Leonard and Abby Sewell

Photo:Jackie Lacey is congratulated by L.A. County Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley at her election-night party at Union Station. Barbara Davidson / Los Angeles Times

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