Calif. assemblyman joins 2010 AG race

Legal News Line Dec. 11, 2008, 2:38pm

Ted Lieu (D)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (Legal Newsline)-California state Assemblyman Ted Lieu, D-Torrance, has joined a rapidly growing crowd of people interested in running for attorney general in 2010.

Lieu told Legal Newsline he filed paperwork this week to run, making him the third Democrat to express interest in the post, widely expected to be left open with Attorney General Jerry Brown running for governor.

San Francisco City Attorney Kamala Harris and former state Assemblyman Joe Canciamilla have already declared their intention to run, but only if Brown launchs a bid to become governor.

Lieu said on Thursday that he too would only run if Brown steps aside. But that is becoming increasingly likely after a published report stated that Brown told a group of Bay Area political powerhouses that he is very determined to run for the office with Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger completing his limit of two terms.

Brown also has held several high-profile fundraisers in recent weeks to build his campaign account to a reported $4 million, far more than he would need to defend his post as attorney general.

Lieu, who represents a swath of Orange and Los Angeles counties, was first elected to the state Legislature in a 2005 special election. His Web site biography states his central areas of interest include education, public safety, the environment and transportation.

"As attorney general," Lieu said in a press release announcing his interest in the post on Thursday, "I would the law as a tool to affect social change."

He is a Stanford University grad and earned his law degree from Georgetown. He is an Air Force veteran, who still serves as a major in the reserves. His wife, Betty, served as a deputy attorney general under former California Attorney General Bill Lockyer.

Lieu told Legal Newsline on Thursday that his military background and Asian heritage distinguishes his candidacy from other Democrats. His longstanding role working with California's mortgage crisis would be a central part of his campaign as well, he said.

"I have been working on these mortgage foreclosure issues for almost two years now," he said. "We were urging lenders last year to do loan modifications to keep people in their homes. We specifically warned them that they we would have an economic meltdown, which we are seeing now, if they didn't act."

Brown's lawsuit against Countrywide, Lieu said, was an important first step, one he would build on.

"Countywide now offers a decent loan modification program, but it only there because the force of law caused them to ramp up their efforts," Lieu said. "I can guarantee you that there were more organizations that engaged in (similar) practices... We have to do a top-down review to see if there were not other lenders out there who need to be dealt with."

Lieu sponsored the California Foreclosure Prevention Act that sets a 90-day moratorium on foreclosures unless the lender offers a comprehensive loan modification program. In early December, he issued a sharp rebuke of the way the $700 Congressional bailout funds have failed to help homeowners, and that Wall Street banks continue to oppose loan modifications.

"Wall Street banks should be ashamed of themselves," Lieu said Dec. 5, "for not only opposing past attempts to reform the mortgage market, but also current attempts to help alleviate the foreclosure crisis."

He said he intends to introduce two more bills next week dealing with the mortgage crisis.

With the country already having one attorney general, Beau Biden of Delaware, called into active duty, Lieu said he would not expect to be a second if elected. Though he remains active in the reserves, the Air Force is unlikely to call him up because of the nature of the work he does for the military.

"The air war is over," he said, "So there is not a lot of need for Air Force reserves. Let's put it this way, if I get called up we're in deep trouble."

Lieu said California Controller John Chiang has endorsed him.

On the Republican side of the aisle, only state Sen. Tom Harman, R-Huntington Beach, filed to run in early December. Harris, who enjoys close ties to President-elect Barack Obama, is seen as rising star in California politics, who many consider a favorite if Brown runs for governor.

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