With Shriver out, Republicans target Top-Gun candidate to run for attorney general

Legal News Line Apr. 21, 2009, 10:32am

Jerry Brown (D)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (Legal Newsline) -- With growing intensity over the past few weeks rumors of California First Lady Maria Shriver's brother Bobby running for attorney general in 2010 swirled like a dust bowl around the Republican Party.

Following Bobby Shriver's official announcement that he would remain as a Santa Monica City councilman last week, elated red-meat conservatives have launched an all-out campaign to recruit one of their own to replace California Attorney General Jerry Brown if, as expected, he leaves the office to run for governor in 2010.

Several recent news reports said Republicans have turned their attention to the state's top legal post now that the party has at least two credible candidates for governor, Silicon Valley billionaires Steve Poizner and Meg Whitman. A third candidate, former Congressman Tom Campbell, is also interested in running for governor.

A recent commentary on a conservative Web site said Republicans could miss a winnable opportunity for statewide office in a state dominated by Democrats.

"This is an office we can win," wrote Dave Gillard, a conservative political consultant.

Gillard had been a strong critic of Shriver, largely because of his ties to the liberal Kennedy-Shriver family, and Schwarzenegger, who has fallen out of favor with anti-tax conservatives.

Yet the push for a strong candidate, according to the Los Angeles Times, is coming most notably from a moderate Republican non-profit group called California Republicans Aligned for Tomorrow.

CRAFT, funded primarily by moderate business leaders, has targeted federal prosecutor Thomas O'Brien, a "fantastic candidate," according to Duf Sundheim, former chair of the state GOP.

O'Brien has told CRAFT that he is focused on his role as the U.S. attorney representing Los Angeles and surrounding counties, according to Sundheim. But he has not ruled out becoming a candidate.

O'Brien is a former U.S. Navy fighter pilot who graduated from the elite Navy Fighter Weapons School, a program made famous by Tom Cruise in "Top Gun."

As a prosecutor, O'Brien has earned a reputation, according to published reports, for aggressive prosecution of gangs, human trafficking, hate crimes and police misconduct.

"I can't imagine anyone better," Riverside Country District Attorney Rod Pacheco, a Republican, said. "He would be phenomenal. We'd be lucky to get him."

With little, if any, primary opposition, O'Brien could expect to run a well-funded campaign, backed by the Republican Party.

O'Brien's top-gun school credentials and success as a prosecutor would stand in stark contrast to any of the top candidates from the Democratic side.

Only state Assemblyman Ted Lieu, D-Torrance, has military credentials as an officer in the Air Force. He still serves in the reserves to match O'Brien. Santa Barbara Assemblyman Pedro Nava worked as a prosecutor before being elected to the state Assembly.

Other Democratic candidates have made their name largely with strong political resumes as opposed to roles in the military or as local prosecutors.

Unlike the Republican field, still lacking an official notable candidate, the Democratic field should be a crowded race with roughly half a dozen candidates officially in the race, when and if, Brown formally announces his intention to run for governor.

In addition to Lieu and Nava, Assembly Majority Leader Alberto Torrico, San Francisco City Attorney Kamala Harris, Los Angeles City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo, former Assemblyman Joe Canciamillia, have all announced their intention to run if Brown opts to vacate his post.

Delgadillo, who opposed Brown in 2006, is the only candidate among the slate from both parties who has run for statewide office and has proven he can raise the money needed to run a serious campaign. He raised more than $5 million in his losing bid against Brown.

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