Election 2012: Voters revamp term limits, appear to reject tobacco tax, deliver upset in district attorney's race

Candidate Carmen Trutanich speaks to his supporters while waiting for the results of Tuesday's tight election for District Attorney.
Candidate Carmen Trutanich speaks to his supporters while waiting for the results of Tuesday's tight election for District Attorney.
Roberto (Bear) Guerra/KPCC
Candidate Carmen Trutanich speaks to his supporters while waiting for the results of Tuesday's tight election for District Attorney.
Cong. Howard Beman greets supporters at his campaign headquarters in Encino.
Grant Slater/KPCC
Candidate Carmen Trutanich speaks to his supporters while waiting for the results of Tuesday's tight election for District Attorney.
Jackie Lacey greets one of her supporters at the Sportsmen's lodge on June 5th, 2012.
KPCC/Mae Ryan

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It looked today as if California's proposed tobacco tax would not take effect while the man considered to be the frontrunner in the race for Los Angeles County’s district attorney failed to even make the November runoff, according to preliminary ballot returns.

Tuesday’s primary election was the first time Californians have had an opportunity to vote under the new top-two primary system, which ignores party affiliation in the runoff, and under the new districts drawn as a result of the most recent U.S. Census.

In Los Angeles County, the hottest race to follow was for district attorney. Los Angeles City Attorney Carmen Trutanich had been considered the frontrunner, with high-profile endorsements from Gov. Jerry Brown and Sheriff Lee Baca. Trutanich also raked in $1.5 million in campaign contributions – significantly more than his closest competitors.

Voters bucked conventional wisdom, however, giving Chief Deputy District Attorney Jackie Lacey 32 percent of the vote. If elected, Lacey would be the first woman and the first African-American to lead the office. She is backed by District Attorney Steve Cooley.

Lacey will likely face Deputy District Attorney Alan Jackson in the November runoff. Jackson received 23.6 percent of the vote, squeaking just past Trutanich, who had 22.3 percent of the vote.

In 2009, while running for city attorney, Trutanich pledged to serve his entire term without seeking higher office. He later reneged on that commitment and called it a campaign gimmick. He also received flack for failing to speak to the media or participate in debates, aside from one talk hosted by the Los Angeles Times.

His campaign had hoped to make it into the runoff with 40 percent of the vote.

“We raised a ton of dough. We fought a hard fight. And we fought truly a negative machine,” Trutanich said at his Election Night party in San Pedro.

In a statement released early this morning, Jackson declared victory.

“The Jackson campaign took on Carmen Trutanich and saved the people of Los Angeles County from a politician who was more concerned about winning the next office instead of winning the next case,” Jackson said. “We were outraised, outspent and outsized by the City Attorney, yet we prevailed because voters clearly want a modern prosecutor not a politician.”

The outcome of Proposition 29, which would increase the tax on tobacco products by $1, was too close to call this morning, though it looked to be failing. With 100 percent of precincts reporting their uncertified results, it looked as though 50.8 percent of voters rejected the ballot measure – by 63,176 votes.

A total of $46.8 million was spent in opposition to Proposition 29. Most of that money came from Philip Morris and R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company. The proposition would raise $735 million a year for cancer research and anti-smoking efforts.

Proposition 28 had a different outcome, easily passing early in the night with 61 percent of the vote. The measure means state lawmakers will get to spend more time in the state Assembly or Senate but less time overall in Sacramento. The change in term limits is the first since voters approved Proposition 140 in 1990.

As expected, two closely watched Congressional races will see Democrats face one another in November thanks to the state’s new primary system that allows the top-two vote-getters, regardless of political party, to enter the runoff.

In the San Fernando Valley, Reps. Brad Sherman and Howard Berman received 42.2 percent and 32.4 percent of the vote, respectively. Redistricting pushed the two long-time leaders into the same district. Political insiders believed Berman had to finish at least in the 30 percent range to remain a viable fundraiser.

In a statement from the campaign, Berman said, “Brad has continuously distorted my record and taken credit for things that I delivered for the Valley. No more. Our campaign will spend every day from now until November setting the record straight against Brad Sherman’s misleading attacks.”

For his part, Sherman will enter this new phase of the campaign with $3 million in the bank – a significant advantage over Berman.

“We ran a bare-bones campaign in the primary,” Sherman said in a statement. “That was the exhibition game. Now we're on to the real game and our team is ready to go."

In the South Bay, Reps. Janice Hahn and Laura Richardson are also headed to a November runoff thanks to redistricting and the top-two primary system. Hahn led with 59.8 percent of the vote, compared to Richardson’s 40.2 percent, according to the unofficial results.

At the state level, some Assembly races were still too close to call this morning:

  • In the 46th District, Adrin Nazarian, chief of staff to L.A. City Councilman Paul Krekorian, led with 27.5 percent of the vote. He will likely face charter school executive Brian Johnson, who had 20.3 percent of the vote. However, Republican Jay Stern was holding onto 20 percent of the vote as of 6 a.m., according to the uncertified results.
  • In the Westside’s 50th District, Assemblywoman Betsy Butler was leading with 25.9 percent of the vote, followed by Santa Monica Mayor Richard Bloom at 25.6 percent. That means Torie Osborn, with 24.3 percent, and Bradly Torgan, at 24.2 percent, are unlikely to make it to the runoff.
  • Veteran politician Richard Alarcon, a member of the Los Angeles City Council, will be in the runoff for the Assembly’s 39th District, a seat he briefly held in 2006. He will face frontrunner Raul Bocanegra, chief of staff to incumbent Assemblyman Felipe Fuentes. In the political version of musical chairs, Fuentes is running for Alarcon’s seat on the city council.