First open seat for D.A. since 1964 [Coffeebreak Quiz answer]
At least eight candidates are competing in the June 5 primary to become Los Angeles County's next district attorney. There is no incumbent. When is the last time that happened?
That's today's Coffeebreak Quiz answer: It has been 48 years since the last open-seat election for district attorney. That's when Evelle J. Younger defeated Manley Bowler to succeed William B. McKesson in the 1964 race.
Every district attorney since then has gotten the job by either defeating the incumbent or being appointed by the county Board of Supervisors.
The current D.A., Steve Cooley, beat his boss, Gil Garcetti, in 2000 after Garcetti was battered in the media over the failure of the O.J. Simpson murder prosecution and public squabbling over the Rampart police scandal.
Garcetti took the job in 1992 from his boss, Ira Reiner, after Reiner dropped out in the final months of the campaign. Reiner also had trouble with high-profile cases, including the McMartin Preschool child-molestation case and the prosecution of four police officers in the beating of Rodney King. Reiner had the job beginning in 1984, when he defeated Robert Philibosian, who in turn had been appointed by the Board of Supervisors in 1981 to fill a vacancy.
The vacancy was created when Dist. Atty. John Van de Kamp was elected state attorney general. Van de Kamp became district attorney in 1975 on appointment by the Board of Supervisors to fill a vacancy created by the death of Joseph Busch. The supervisors appointed Busch to the office in 1971 to fill the vacancy left when Younger was elected attorney general. And of course, Younger had the job since 1964, after he won the election to succeed McKesson.
I once worked for Younger, many years after he left office, at a Los Angeles law firm that specialized in bankruptcy. Good training for reporting on Los Angeles city and county and California state government. And, come to think of it, for working at the Los Angeles Times.
Another man I worked for, Metropolitan News-Enterprise Editor and Co-Publisher Roger M. Grace, noted in a column that Younger was related to outlaw Cole Younger and others in the Jesse James gang. Grace has written extensively about the county's not-always-upstanding district attorneys, going back to the beginning.
The actual nomination period for this year's district attorney race begins Feb. 13, but eight candidates have declared that they are running and/or have been raising money for the race. They are Deputy Dist. Atty. Bobby Grace; Deputy Dist. Atty. Steve Ipsen; Assistant Head Deputy Dist. Atty. Alan Jackson; Chief Deputy Dist. Atty. Jackie Lacey; Deputy Dist. Atty. Danette Meyers; Deputy Dist. Atty. Marcus Musante; Deputy Dist. Atty. Mario Trujillo; and Los Angeles City Atty. Carmen Trutanich.
Check back with Opinion L.A. and the Los Angeles Times editorial page between now and election day for discussions of the candidates, the issues and our endorsement.
-- Robert Greene
Photo: Evelle J. Younger, then a Los Angeles Municipal Court judge, looks on as his wife, Mildred Younger, emerges from a voting booth in 1954. Mildred Younger was running for state Senate, and would have become California's first female member of the Legislature had she won. Credit: Los Angeles Times