GOP race for Calif. AG picks up steam

Chris Rizo Jan. 12, 2010, 1:49am

Steve Cooley (R)

John Eastman (R)

Tom Harman (R)

Jerry Brown (D)

LOS ANGELES (Legal Newsline)-The Republican race for California attorney general is slowly picking up speed after months of there only being one GOP candidate vying to succeed Democrat Jerry Brown.

On Monday, Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley announced that he has formed an exploratory committee, moving him one step closer to announcing a potential bid to serve as the state's next chief legal officer.

"Many people from law enforcement and throughout the political spectrum are urging me to run for attorney general," he said in a statement. "I have the experience and drive to be California's top law enforcement officer."

Cooley's announcement comes just days after John Eastman, the dean of Chapman University College of Law, told Legal Newsline he is considering jumping into the Republican race, which until recently belonged to state Sen. Tom Harmon of Huntington Beach, whose been campaigning for months.

The three Republicans are all vying to succeed Brown, who has been criticized by GOP detractors as an activist attorney general. Brown is widely considered to run for governor, a post he held more than two decades ago, before the state enacted term limits.

Elected LA county's top prosecutor in 2000, Cooley says that experience has prepared him to be the state's next chief law enforcement officer.

As for Eastman, he is considered one of the top conservative legal minds in the state.

If the Federalist Society leader and former law clerk to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas were to jump into the AG race it would be a "major shakeup," wrote Jon Fleischman, publisher of the right-leaning political blog FlashReport.

In a posting last week, Fleischman forecasted that Eastman would "quickly become a favorite of conservatives nationwide, due to his long standing leadership in the (conservative) movement."

Before being appointed dean of Chapman's law school in 2007, Eastman was director of the Center for Constitutional Jurisprudence, a public interest law firm affiliated with the Claremont Institute, a conservative Southern California think tank.

Harman, who declared his interest in the $151,127-a-year attorney general post in late 2008, serves as the Senate minority whip and is the only lawyer in the Senate Republican caucus. He is the ranking Republican member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

In an earlier interview with Legal Newsline, Harman said Brown has "misused" his office to promote his own personal agenda and advance his political ambitions.

"When I am attorney general I am going to follow the law to the letter of the law," he said. "That is what an AG should be doing. You shouldn't be inserting your own personal beliefs, your own political beliefs, your own philosophical beliefs. Just follow the law."

The conservative from Orange County was first was elected to the state Legislature in 2000. Like many of the stalwart conservative bloc of California Republicans, Harman's top priorities include lowering taxes and eliminating government waste according to his biography and Senate campaign Web site.

Democrats vying for their party's AG nomination include Assembly Majority Leader Alberto Torrico of Newark, Assemblyman Pedro Nava of Santa Barbara, Assemblyman Ted Lieu of Torrance, San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris, former Los Angeles City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo and Chris Kelly, chief privacy officer for the Web site Facebook.

From Legal Newsline: Reach staff reporter Chris Rizo at

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