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Trutanich forms exploratory committee to run for D.A.

April 15, 2011 |  4:51 pm

Carmen Los Angeles City Atty. Carmen Trutanich has formed an exploratory campaign committee to run for Los Angeles County district attorney after being actively recruited by law enforcement officials, including Sheriff Lee Baca, an advisor to Trutanich said Friday.

John Shallman, a senior advisor, said formation of the committee did not mean that Trutanich would officially enter the 2012 race for district attorney, but said he had been "deluged by leaders in law enforcement" urging him to run if Cooley decides against a reelection bid.

"He is honored to have their encouragement, but right now he is singularly focused on his job fighting and preventing gang violence as city attorney," Shallman said.

The website www.drafttrutanich4da.com calls Trutanich "The True Gang Prosecutor" and bills itself as a coalition of law enforcement officers, public safety advocates and community activists working to draft Trutanich to run for district attorney in 2012. It also includes a petition to recruit Trutanich.

Baca, who is spearheading the draft Trutanich drive, said through his spokesman Steve Whitmore that the committee has been formed because "a number of individuals have already actively started to campaign for Los Angeles County district attorney."

"Mr. Trutanich respects the current District Attorney Steve Cooley to such an extent that he is not going to campaign until Mr. Cooley decides whether he is going to run or not," Baca said. "In the meantime, it's important for Mr. Trutanich to put himself in a position where he is able to mount a campaign quickly and effectively should Mr. Cooley not decide to seek a 4th term."

Trutanich, a former deputy district attorney, told The Times he hadn't ruled out running for the job, but said he would only think about joining the race if Cooley did not seek reelection. Trutanich was elected in 2009 with strong support from Cooley.

Cooley has said he would consider running for a historic fourth consecutive term if no qualified candidates stepped up or if what he called an "undeserving and unworthy" contender appeared to be headed for victory.

Five prosecutors with the district attorney's office -- including Alan Jackson, Bobby Grace, Jacquelyn Lacey, Danette Meyers and Mario Trujillo -- have either announced they are campaigning for district attorney in 2012 or taken steps toward a run.

On Friday, a spokesman for Jackson blasted the move by Trutanich, saying he violated a pledge he made in the 2009 city attorney's race against Jack Weiss not to run for district attorney.

“Apparently Carmen Trutanich does not value his word or the voters of the city of Los Angeles. How are we supposed to believe anything Trutanich says?” said political consultant John S. Thomas. “We deserve a district attorney who does what is best for the people of Los Angeles, not his own political career. We know some politicians will say anything to get elected, but Trutanich has taken it to a whole other level.

Trutanich said he did not consider a pledge he signed during his 2009 election campaign as an obstacle to seeking the district attorney's post.

In November 2008, Trutanich called on his opponent in the race, then-City Councilman Jack Weiss, to join him in swearing to seek a second term should he become city attorney and to promise not to run for another office while serving in the post. The pledge called on the election winner to pay a $100,000 personal fine to an afterschool program and to take out full-page newspaper ads declaring "I AM A LIAR" if he violated the pledge.

Trutanich said that the pledge was a challenge to his opponent and that Weiss never agreed to sign it. He also said that circumstances had changed since his election victory.


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Photo: Los Angeles City Attorney Carmen A. Trutanich. Credit: Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times