San Francisco City Attorney gets key Democratic endorsement for AG race

Legal News Line Apr. 23, 2009, 9:29pm

Kamala Harris (D)

Darrell Steinberg (D)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (Legal Newsline)-State Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg wasted no time in picking his choice for California's next attorney general.

Steinberg endorsed San Francisco City Attorney Kamala Harris on Thursday, choosing the up-and-comer from as many as six possible contenders to replace Attorney General Jerry Brown in 2010, should he decide to run for governor as is widely expected.

Though the race really hasn't begun - at least in terms of campaigning, though the same can't be said of critical early fundraising - and all the contenders said they will not formally announce until Brown makes his intentions known, Steinberg's endorsement gives Harris a powerful ally in what is likely to be a crowded and hotly-contested primary.

"Kamala Harris is an experienced prosecutor," Steinberg, D-Sacramento, said in a statement released by the Harris campaign. "As California's next attorney general, she will fight for all Californians -- from distressed homeowners to children, seniors and families whose neighborhoods need protection from crime."

Following word of Steinberg's endorsement, Assemblyman Ted Lieu, D-Torrance, announced his candidacy for attorney general had been endorsed by Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca.

Calling it the first major public safety endorsement of the race, a press release issued the Lieu campaign said Baca's endorsement is added to a "growing list of California leaders" backing the Assemblyman. Lieu has been endorsed by State Controller John Chaing, and Assemblymembers Paul Fong, Isadore Hall, Mary Hayashi, Bonnie Lowenthal and Curren Price.

"I have known Ted Lieu for many years and he has always been a fighter for public safety," Baca said. "Ted Lieu is a leader in protecting Californians and has what it takes to be California's next attorney general."

Harris has been actively courting key leaders in the Democratic Party and key backers of President Barack Obama. Harris is a close friend of Obama -- may speculated he would tab her for a role in his administration -- who was with him when he announced his campaign long before he became a household name in American politics.

Harris will be attending two Bay Area gatherings among California's strong donors and party loyalists in the next week, according to information on her campaign Web site.

Earlier this year Harris received three donations of the maximum $12,500 and several others in the $5,000 to $6,500 range from notable California donors, many of whom supported Obama. The donors include the wife of Apple Chief Executive Steve Jobs, Warner Bros. television executive producer Chuck Lorrie, and Shakleee Corp. Chief Executive Roger Barnett of San Francisco.

Harris also received the maximum donation from Bay Area residents Quinn Delaney and Wayne Jordan, a political "power couple" who worked as fundraisers for Obama, according to a blog report.

Steinberg's endorsement helps bolster her standing within political circles, just as these early fundraising accomplishments have done.

Lieu, a former military prosecutor with the JAC Corps, ended last year far ahead of all candidates with campaign contributions with nearly $1 million raised and $350,000 cash on hand. At that time Harris had raised just $119,000.

Like all the candidates, Harris and Lieu must separate from the crowded pack that could include Los Angeles city attorney Rocky Delgadillo, who lost in the Democratic primary for the job in 2006, Assembly Majority Leader Alberto Torrico, D-Newark, Assemblyman Pedro Nava of Santa Barbara, and former Assemblyman Joe Canciamilla. Each has announced his intention to run should Brown run for governor.

On the Republican side, a moderate GOP group is actively recruiting U.S. Attorney Thomas O'Brien of Los Angeles, a former Navy pilot, trained in the prestigious Top Gun school. Chuck Poochigian, a 2006 GOP attorney general candidate, and state Sen. Tom Harman of Huntington Beach, also are considering the race.

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