District Attorney Debate Held at Harvard Westlake

These are the 12 candidates vying to become L.A. District Attorney: (top row, left to right) George Gascon, John McKinney, Jonathan Hatami , Eric Siddall, Jeff Chemerinsky, and Judge Debra Archuleta and (bottom row left to right) Nathan Hochman, Maria Ramirez, Judge David Milton, Judge Craig Mitchell, Dan Kapelovitz and Lloyd “Bobcat” Mason.

The Westside and Valley Current and Harvard Westlake sponsored a forum at the high school for the public to hear the 12 candidates running for District Attorney.

Before the debate began, Councilwoman Traci Park spoke. “I have said the District Attorney’s race is the most important race on the ballot.”

“I say this not only as an elected official but also as a resident in the City of Los Angeles,” Park said. “I am sick and tired of the crime.

“I am sick and tired of all of it: the street crime, the violent crime, the drug crimes, the retail theft, the residential burglaries, the vandalism and the infrastructure crime that is costing taxpayers millions of dollars.”

The hour and half debate held on February 20, was moderated by Craig Fiegener (KNX) and Harvard Westlake student Mia Morgan. The forum was also live-streamed and an additional 300 people tuned in to listen.

The 10 candidates were introduced, and each was allowed a one-minute opening statement. Missing because of a prior engagement was incumbent George Gascon. Candidate Nathan Hochman was ill.

The chat room during the debate was lively. One particularly aggressive Gascon proponent, who had nothing but praise for him, found fault with the remaining candidates as they spoke.

That proponent was accused by another person of being a paid operative for Gascon, but no she believed in him. She had attended Columbia and then Harvard Law School, with a practice in Beverly Hills, known for marijuana advocacy.

John McKinney

During the debate, her apparent support of Gascon made candidate deputy District Attorney John McKinney’s warning even more apt. The current DA has survived two recalls.

“Do not count him out. He is vulnerable, but not defeated,” McKinney said. “It will take a formidable candidate to take him out.”

In an ABC February 17 story (“Even with Low Approval Rating, Large Field of Candidates in Race for LA DA helps George Gascon”)”The large field is the best thing that’s ever happened to [Gascón] for sure,” said Jim Newton, a UCLA lecturer and the editor of Blueprint Magazine. “In a sense that it offers him a, not an unimpeded, but a fairly clear route to the runoff. With that many candidates, 15- 20% gets you the runoff. I think Gascón, barring something catastrophic between now and Election Day, can probably count on that. He can get re-elected with a very low approval rating based more on the structure of the campaign than on his popularity.”

During the debate, there were several non-DA questions that were irritating such as one on abortion and another on whether the 2020 national election was valid.

Judge Craig Mitchell

“We did not discuss no-cash bail, and Proposition 47 in any meaningful way,” Judge Craig Mitchell pointed out in his closing summary.

Key questions about executive orders that Gascon put in place, enhancements and victim’s rights, we’re not discussed in depth.

At an hour and 23 minutes into the debate, Cortlyn Bridges was allowed to ask a question of the candidates. Bridges’ 28-year-old daughter Ky Alicia Thomas was killed on the Venice boardwalk in December 2020, leaving behind a newborn son and an 8-year-old daughter.

In January 2022, Isiah Eugene Caldwell, and Jonathan Michael Singh, were arrested and charged with murder, attempted murder, and conspiracy to commit murder.  Court documents show that Singh’s murder and attempted murder charges were dropped due to insufficient evidence in December 2023. He received a sentence of just over five years for conspiracy to commit a crime and assault with a deadly weapon. Meanwhile, future court dates for Isiah Eugene Caldwell are still pending.

Bridges question to each candidate was about how they would handle gang enhancements. She said, “Just a real quick answer. I don’t need a song and dance. Just 20 seconds for each person.”

In that six minutes of video, click here residents will come away with an idea about the crime and enforcement policies of each candidate.

There are four Deputy District Attorney’s running: Eric Siddall, Maria Ramirez, John McKinney and Jonathan Hatami.

There are three Los Angeles County Superior Court Judges running: Craig Mitchell, Debra Archuleta and David Milton (retired).

San Bernardino County Deputy District Attorney Lloyd “Bobcat” Mason is running.

Also in the race are former federal prosecutor Nathan Hochman, former Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeff Chemerinsky and defense attorney Dan Kapelovitz.

If no candidate receives more than 50 percent of the vote in the March primary, there will be a runoff.

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