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Oakland City Attorney John Russo, whose ambitions for a seat in the state Legislature were frustrated with a primary loss just two months ago, is already putting to rest any speculation about his future aspirations. He’s told some senior staffers that he will seek a third term when his current one expires in 2008. Russo is expected to make a formal announcement next month, once he and many of his deputy city attorneys return from vacation. By making his intentions known early, Russo is signaling a long-term commitment to loyal staff attorneys, many of whom he personally recruited after he became Oakland’s first elected city attorney. Likewise, he’s sending a message to a handful of people who had publicly acknowledged they would eye his job if he had moved to the state capital, including Councilwoman Jane Brunner and civil litigator Clinton Killian. While Brunner declined to comment this week on plans to run against Russo, Killian said he will be in the race “regardless of what John does.” Russo hasn’t widely broadcast his plans to extend his City Hall stay through 2012 � he said he hasn’t discussed it with Mayor-elect Ron Dellums. But some of his employees know. Deputy City Attorney Mark Morodomi said he thinks the news will raise morale following the uncertainty surrounding Russo’s bid for the state Legislature. “People in the office would have hated to see him leave had he won the Assembly race, so we’re thrilled he’s sticking around,” Morodomi said. Earlier this year, Russo was gunning for a spot on the Democratic ticket for state Assembly. But he lost that chance in the June primary when he came in second out of four candidates, trailing front-runner Sandre Swanson 35 percent to 43 percent. Reached by phone Tuesday evening in Washington, D.C., where he was taking in a baseball game with his twin sons, Russo said he had “mixed feelings” about the prospect of leaving his City Hall post in the first place. “My first reaction to the election result was relief,” said the 47-year-old single father. “The reality is, I was very conflicted about what [commuting to Sacramento] was going to mean for my family.” Among his plans for a third term, Russo said he wants to continue strengthening the city attorney’s office and Neighborhood Law Corps, a public-private venture Russo created to use code enforcement to tackle issues that give rise to high crime and urban blight. Russo has also informed his litigation team that he’s looking for an opportunity to make his return to the courtroom by taking the lead on some form of affirmative litigation, though on Tuesday he wouldn’t specify what issue he hopes to pursue. His last high-profile argument in court was two years ago when Russo appeared before the California Supreme Court to help defend a local ordinance meant to protect homeowners from predatory lending. In that case, American Financial Services Association v. City of Oakland 34 Cal.4th 1239, the justices ruled 4-3 against the city. San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera gave Russo high marks for his work so far, adding that many of the state’s most effective city attorneys, like Louise Renne, Herrera’s predecessor, achieved their greatest success after they had already served eight years. “Someone with the vision, the enthusiasm and the smarts of John Russo can do a lot in a third term,” Herrera added. In his six years as city attorney to date, Russo has shown a willingness to wade into dicey political disputes in Oakland City Hall. Most recently, he filed an advisory opinion that took Councilwoman Desley Brooks to task for diverting public funds to a political action committee, though the opinion did not mention Brooks by name. Russo can continue seeking re-election as long as he wants, because, unlike some California cities including Los Angeles and San Diego, Oakland has no term limits for city attorney. In February, Killian said that under Russo, the city attorney’s office was an “untapped” resource. “You can see that even though the city attorney gets paid quite well, we’re not getting nearly the level of service that other cities are getting,” he said.

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