Joshua Lynn and his dozens of supporters didn’t let the rare Santa Barbara rainfall dampen their spirits as he officially announced what has been talked about for weeks: that he would be running for District Attorney of Santa Barbara County.
The announcement ensures a roller coaster of a contest for the District Attorney’s position, as prosecutor Lynn squares off against one of his colleagues, Senior Deputy D.A. Joyce Dudley. Both are known as exceptional trial lawyers, impassioned personalities, and tireless workers. Onlookers can expect a very lively race for the D.A.’s position, the likes of which have not been seen in decades.
Lynn’s announcement came a little over a month after Dudley made her official announcement at the County Courthouse in front of an equally enthused, albeit less rain-drenched physically group than Lynn’s. It was the first time in the history of the Santa Barbara District Attorney’s office that an incumbent was challenged by one of her or his deputies.
And then, not a week after Dudley’s showing outside the courthouse, D.A. Christie Stanley, who has been battling lung cancer for much of her first four-year term in office, officially announced she would not seek re-election. She would instead be backing Lynn. Shortly after that, Stanley broke her hip in a fall and underwent surgery; she named Lynn acting D.A., until further notice. The move got a reaction from Dudley, who called the move political and said that in appointing Lynn, currently the chief trial deputy, Stanley was “anointing her successor.”
Already, sides are being chosen, though this election is not until next year. Dudley, a 19-year veteran of the office, has so far wrapped up endorsements from Sheriff Bill Brown, and Supervisors Salud Carbajal and Doreen Farr, in addition to seasoned department veterans such as Ron Zonen, Gerald Franklin, and Hilary Dozer.
Lynn, a prosecutor since 1996, has countered with his own heavy-hitting list of backers, including former D.A. Tom Sneddon; very recently retired 38-year office veteran Pat McKinley, Chief Assistant D.A. Eric Hanson, recently retired North County Chief Assistant D.A. Gene Martinez, and several others in the office.
The D.A.’s current staff thus far seems split, though several attorneys have yet to declare a candidate (11 have publicly backed Lynn, while three have sided with Dudley, according to their websites). And the Deputy District Attorneys Association has a long way to go before a potential endorsement would be handed out. The filing period, which doesn’t begin until spring 2010, must be closed before considerations can be made and interviews conducted. Then, according to the union’s bylaws, in order for an endorsement to be made a super-majority of the entire membership-not just the voting membership-must back someone, a tough number to reach.
Lynn, who just successfully prosecuted Jesse James Hollywood and has another murder trial-almost always a high-profile assignment-on the way in the coming months, said during Wednesday’s announcement that he will fight hard to keep deputies in the D.A.’s office and crime off the streets, despite budget woes. “Public safety must be the first obligation for my office and for this county,” he told a crowd of about 75 supporters.
Dudley, in a statement this afternoon, said she welcomed Lynn to the race and hoped for a positive campaign. She emphasized that they had similar values. “Public safety has to come first,” she said, adding that the voting public “deserves and should demand a campaign that serves to illuminate what each candidate sees as the most important priorities and challenges facing the District Attorney’s office.”
So now, with the election still nearly eight full months away and the possibility of other potential candidates entering the race still conceivable, Dudley and Lynn are off and running in what has already been, and promises to be until Election Day, an interesting race.