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Veteran prosecutor Jackie Lacey leads in L.A. County D.A. race

June 6, 2012 | 12:26 am

Click for an interactive map of California primary results

Veteran L.A. County prosecutor Jackie Lacey held a comfortable lead Tuesday in her bid to become the county's first African American and first female 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 more than a third of all ballots cast at the polls. Unless a candidate wins a majority of votes, the two top contenders will run head-to-head in the fall.

Lacey's strong showing was somewhat of a surprise in an election in which Trutanich was widely viewed as the favorite to become the county's top prosecutor.

INTERACTIVE MAP: California primary results

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

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 in prosecuting legendary music producer Phil Spector for murder, won endorsements from the county's Republican Party and more than a dozen local police unions.

The final candidate, John L. Breault III, is the longest-serving prosecutor in the district attorney's office, which he joined in 1969. ALSO:

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-- Jack Leonard

Photo: District Attorney candidate Jackie Lacey hugs Lori Dery of Thousand Oaks at Lacey's election night party. Credit: Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times