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2 to Vie for Ventura County D.A.

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TIMES STAFF WRITER

Flanked by leaders of the local law enforcement community, Ventura County Chief Assistant Dist. Atty. Greg Totten on Wednesday formally announced his candidacy for district attorney--kicking off the first contested election for the job in more than 20 years.

Totten, a 47-year-old career prosecutor, stood before a crowd of about 100 supporters and vowed to continue policies put in place by his outgoing boss while pushing forward with new strategies to fight crime.

“As district attorney, I will never allow myself to rest on the past successes of this office,” Totten said. “For the face of crime is ever changing, and sadly we live in a time when there seems to be no bounds on cruelty and inhumanity of predatory criminals.”

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Totten called a news conference to formally declare his candidacy two days after Dist. Atty. Michael Bradbury announced he would not seek a seventh four-year term.

Bradbury, who has been mentioned as a possible candidate for U.S. attorney in Los Angeles, plans to serve out his term, which expires in January 2003.

Totten faces a challenge in the March primary from Senior Deputy Dist. Atty. Ron Bamieh, 35, who filed committee papers earlier this month and formally announced his candidacy Monday.

“We are going to have an election and I think it will be an exciting thing for this county,” Bamieh said. “The office, quite frankly, needs a change.”

On Wednesday, Totten made no mention of his opponent while addressing a crowd of friends, fellow prosecutors, police officers and crime victims.

He announced that Bradbury and Ventura County Sheriff Bob Brooks will serve as co-chairmen of his campaign.

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And he told the crowd he has won early support from every police chief and mayor in the county, as well as Supervisors Frank Schillo, John Flynn and Judy Mikels, and Congressman Elton Gallegly (R-Simi Valley).

Bradbury, 59, who has led a quiet crusade on Totten’s behalf, told Wednesday’s crowd in no uncertain terms who should succeed him.

“Greg Totten is a man of character, a man of unquestionable integrity and a man of honor,” said Bradbury.

Although the filing deadline for the 2002 district attorney race is still months away, it was clear this week that both candidates are jumping quickly into the election season.

Bamieh has already started raising money and set up his campaign office in a building off Victoria Drive, next to the Ventura Freeway. Large banners announcing his candidacy hang in the windows.

Totten has no office yet but plans to get his campaign operation in place within the next few weeks.

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Brooks said he supports Totten because he has demonstrated compassion, character and “extreme competence” as a prosecutor and administrator during his 20 years in the county.

Simi Valley Police Chief Randy Adams, who stood behind Totten during the press conference, said he believes support from the law enforcement community is deserved and will go a long way in Totten’s run for district attorney.

“I think it says you’ve got an incredibly respected individual who is ready to assume the helm as soon as Mike steps down,” Adams said.

Asked after the news conference about the upcoming campaign with Bamieh, Totten declined to discuss his opponent. He said he regretted the timing of his announcement given last week’s terrorist attacks in New York.

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