Villaraigosa eschews local candidates, backs Harris for Calif. attorney general

By Chris Rizo | Apr 16, 2010

Kamala Harris (D)

Antonio Villaraigosa (D)

LOS ANGELES (Legal Newsline)--Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is not expected to endorse either the former city attorney or the county prosecutor in their runs for state attorney general.

Instead, the mayor today is going to throw his support officially behind fellow Democrat and the frontrunner in the attorney general's race, San Francisco County District Attorney Kamala Harris.

If elected as attorney general, Harris would be the state's first female AG as well as the first person of color to run the mammoth California Department of Justice.

Villaraigosa, a former speaker of the California State Assembly, called a news conference at City Hall for this afternoon to make the endorsement. The mayor's announcement is the same day as the California Democratic Party State Convention gets underway in the city.

The mayor's endorsement will come amid criticism of Harris's handling of a growing drug theft scandal at the San Francisco Police Department's crime lab.

Former civilian criminalist Deborah Madden, 60, is accused of taking cocaine from evidence samples in 2009. The case against Madden jeopardizes scores of drug cases she had contact with in recent years.

Among critics is San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi who recently lambasted Harris for not meeting with him and understating problems in the crime lab's narcotics unit.

Harris is vying to succeed Jerry Brown as the Golden State's chief legal officer. Brown, a former governor and mayor of Oakland, is not seeking a second term as attorney general. He instead is seeking the Democratic nomination for governor in the June 8 primary.

The daughter of Indian-American physician Dr. Shyamala Gopalan and Jamaican-American economist and Stanford University Professor Donald Harris, Kamala Harris is widely considered to be a rising star in California Democratic politics.

In May 2008, she was considered by The New York Times to be among the 17 most likely to become the first female U.S. president if then-Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton failed to win her party's nomination and the general election.

Harris was first elected as the county's top prosecutor in 2003, unseating District Attorney Terence Hallinan, who became DA in 1995, after serving seven years on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. Harris was reelected in 2007 with no challenger.

Before becoming district attorney, Harris worked in San Francisco City Attorney Louise Renne's office, where she served as chief of the Community and Neighborhood Division, which handles code enforcement matters.

She attended Howard University in Washington, D.C., and received her law degree from the University of California's Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco.

Among other candidates running in the attorney general's race are two major Southern California political figures: Former Los Angeles City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo, a Democrat, and Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley, a Republican.

Also running is state Assembly Majority Leader Alberto Torrico of Newark, Assemblyman Pedro Nava of Santa Barbara, Assemblyman Ted Lieu of Torrance and Chris Kelly, chief privacy officer for the online social utility Facebook, based in Palo Alto, Calif.

On the Republican side along with Cooley, state Sen. Tom Harman of Huntington Beach and John Eastman, former dean of Chapman University Law School in Orange, Calif., are vying for the GOP nomination.

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