Orange County Supervisor Todd Spitzer snatched a lead early on in Tuesday’s race for Orange County’s new district attorney against Tony Rackauckas, who has held the position for nearly two decades. Spitzer appeared to take the race, leading by 31,000 votes early Wednesday.
Spitzer, a former state legislator who served as assistant district attorney and was considered Rackaukas’ protégé until he was fired in 2010, ran on a platform of reform.
One of the central issues of the race has been the controversy surrounding the “jailhouse snitch scandal,” in which Rackauckas’ office was accused of illegally using inmate informants to obtain incriminating evidence against defendants.
The allegations led to reduce sentencing and retrials in numerous criminal cases.
The head of the county’s prosecutor’s office handles about 60,000 cases per year.
The most high-profile incident was that of Scott Evans Dekraai, who fatally shot eight people in Seal Beach in 2011.
After the DA’s office was found to have repeatedly withheld evidence, a judge barred the office from prosecuting the case, and later ruled out the death penalty as a punishment.
Still, Rackauckas, who was first elected DA in 1998, was endorsed by a majority of the Board of Supervisors and Orange County Sheriff Sandra Hutchens.
However, Supervisor Shawn Nelson, who is serving his last term and will not be in office in 2019, switched his endorsement to Spitzer in September. Both Spitzer and Nelson have repeatedly clashed as fellow supervisors over the years.
Spitzer, who ran on a platform of reform, has been involved in his own controversy earlier this year for speaking against building new housing for the county’s growing homeless population.
He called homeless people “sex offenders and drug addicts” who don’t want help, and told residents of several Orange County cities that the Board of Supervisors’ proposed temporary shelters would put their communities in danger.