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The gubernatorial recall election has been stealing the limelight from local elections for months. And with the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals’ ruling earlier this week postponing the recall election, it still is. “If it gets postponed, then people start being able to focus on the local race,” said Sam Lauter, a principal at the Barnes Mosher Whitehurst Lauter & Partners political consulting firm in San Francisco. But for now, he said, the focus continues to be on the recall — and whether it will be postponed. In San Francisco, representatives for the trio of district attorney candidates expressed some disagreement over how a postponed recall would affect their race come November. Marc O’Hara, a spokesman for District Attorney Terence Hallinan, said the recall has made it tough for candidates in general to campaign because voters are focused on the statewide election. But the recall “doesn’t really impact” the incumbent because of the name recognition he started with, he said. Campaign manager Duane Baughman asserted that criminal defense attorney Bill Fazio benefits from the uncertainty surrounding the recall. People look for a candidate they’re “comfortable” with, and they are familiar with Fazio and his message thanks to his two previous campaigns against Hallinan, Baughman said. “This kind of upheaval hurts people who are unknowns.” And Kamala Harris said the recall has caused concern in her camp that it may consume all of the time many voters are willing to devote to politics. She said she hopes the press will shift the money and attention spent on recall coverage to local races if the recall is postponed. Regardless of when the recall occurs, the city’s “spirited race for mayor” and politically motivated population are likely to drive turnout relatively high for an off-year election, O’Hara said. If the recall is postponed, gubernatorial candidates will likely use the delay as an opportunity to regroup, Lauter said. A postponement would be expected to “clear the political landscape,” allowing a shift of media attention to local races, said assistant political science professor Francis Neely of San Francisco State University. If the recall election is put off until March, the district attorney candidates would likely accelerate their schedules for direct mail, phone calls and television ads, said Barnes Mosher principal John Whitehurst. Both Whitehurst and Lauter are supporting Harris, but are not working on her campaign. The upshot, said Whitehurst: “It will give marginal benefit to a candidate that has low-name identification, in that it buys them three more weeks of campaigning.” Harris’ campaign consultant, Jim Stearns, contends that more press attention would benefit her more than her opponents. But he also said a delay for the recall would add, at most, one or two weeks’ worth of additional attention on the DA’s race. “She’s better off without a recall,” O’Hara said of Harris. “But it’s a marginal difference.” The recall has already detracted months of attention from the DA’s race, O’Hara said, adding, “That window of time that she already lost is really critical.” Baughman, of Fazio’s campaign, said the date of the recall “doesn’t change a thing for us.” Fazio “has engendered about $1 billion worth of name recognition having run before,” Baughman said. Harris would have to get a huge amount of attention “just to get up to the plate” and match it, he said. Postponement might turn local attention back to the DA’s race a few days sooner, he said, “but not anything so palpable as to be strategy-changing.” Until the fate of the Ninth Circuit’s decision is decided, the candidates are staying the course on their campaign strategy. “We haven’t really changed anything,” Harris said. “It’s all just speculation,” O’Hara said. “We’re just plugging away on the things we have to do.”

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