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In Southern California’s six judicial runoffs this week, voters rejected flashy campaign tactics in favor of candidates with core themes of old-fashioned integrity and independence. As Deputy District Attorney Arthur Harrison said in his successful campaign against defense attorney Mary Jo de la Pena for a seat in San Bernardino County’s Victorville courthouse: “My priority is restoring and adding to the dignity of the position of judge.” The sentiment could be seen spilling over into non-judicial races. In the Los Angeles DA race, deputy prosecutor Stephen Cooley’s show of plodding decency scored 2-1 over the far more polished campaigner, two-term incumbent Gil Garcetti. Cooley has said that his plans for the office are to restore public faith following the Rampart scandal — a serious minus for Garcetti — and to audit the effectiveness of special education and crime prevention programs that have become a Garcetti trademark. Judiciousness also drew the vote in the San Diego mayoral race between two silver-haired Republican men. It was the candidate who vowed “to remain my own man, to treat the job of mayor as I treated the job of judge,” that allowed Superior Court Judge Richard “Dick” Murphy, a long shot in the primaries, to trump the perennial politician, Ron Roberts. The only judicial incumbent, Los Angeles ?County Superior Court Judge John Martinez, pulled a major comeback after running second in the primary to Maria Vargas-Rodriguez. On Tuesday, the 19-year veteran won 63 percent to Vargas-Rodriguez’s 37 percent for a seat in Alhambra. As has become de rigueur in L.A. judicial contests, each had a professional campaign consultant, but Martinez took an unusual step after the primary by shifting from Cerrell Associates — a powerhouse famous for rescuing sitting judges — to the relatively unknown Siegel & Nichol. Vargas-Rodriguez’s campaign produced a flier that apparently gave Martinez all the material he needed to claim the high road — a photo of Vargas-Rodriguez, an occasional judge pro tem, wearing a dress that looked like a judicial robe and being referred to in the text as a “judge.” In three other controversial judicial campaigns, mavericks also lost out. David Mintz, a deputy DA, handily won the other L.A. County race over solo practitioner Vicki Roberts, who had gone to court unsuccessfully to protest her “not qualified” rating from the Los Angeles County Bar Association. Mintz was rated “well-qualified.” In San Diego County, the legal establishment in the form of David Danielsen, head of the California Judges Association, had expressed concerns that candidate William O’Connell’s willingness to fill out a questionnaire about political positions, distributed by the Christian Coalition, would give him an unfair advantage while violating judicial canons. But the issue proved moot, since O’Connell’s opponent, Charles Ervin, won the open seat after refusing to reply to the questionnaire. Last-minute controversy about a different approach to campaigning also proved fatal to Orange County’s E. Thomas Dunn Jr., the appellate court research attorney who cited an appellate reversal to try to paint his opponent, Sheila Fell, as “soft on crime.” Because of the potential for conflicts, given Dunn’s position with the appellate court, a bevy of judges and justices announced eleventh-hour support for Fell. Faced with the criticism, Dunn on Tuesday resigned his post as a research attorney for 4th District Court of Appeal Justice William Bedsworth. In the quietest of the Southland’s judicial races, also in Orange County, a current prosecutor, Daniel McNerney, easily beat retired prosecutor Jan Nolan.

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