Orange County district attorney’s race guide: Will Todd Spitzer survive?

Orange County Dist. Atty. Todd Spitzer
Orange County Dist. Atty. Todd Spitzer speaks to reporters in Santa Ana in May.
(Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times)
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The race for Orange County district attorney has largely been centered around the incumbent, Todd Spitzer.

Spitzer, a Republican former county supervisor, was elected four years ago as a candidate who pledged to reform an office plagued by scandal. But now, some are saying another change is needed.

In part, the challenges for Spitzer are demographic. Orange County has evolved from its John Wayne-style law-and-order roots to a place that twice voted against Donald Trump and is majority Latino and Asian.



Spitzer has also faced criticism after racist comments he made while discussing the case of a Black defendant surfaced in February. Spitzer has apologized for the comments, saying he “used an example that was insensitive.”

In response, some political groups and district attorneys in other jurisdictions withdrew their endorsements of him. His opponents have attacked him from both the left and right, with a common theme that Spitzer has jeopardized criminal cases and shown poor judgment.

California’s 2022 primary election is Tuesday. Here’s how to cast a ballot.

June 7, 2022

Spitzer, who has branded himself as a law-and-order candidate, rejects that criticism. His campaign hashtag is #NoLAinOC and he has focused his messaging around protecting Orange County from becoming like Los Angeles.

Spitzer has criticized one of his opponents, Peter Hardin, a Democrat, as being part of an “anti-law enforcement, anti-public safety, pro-criminal movement.”

Hardin has said that, if elected, he would not seek the death penalty, replace cash bail and pull back on charging children as adults. His ideas align him with some of the more progressive district attorneys in the nation and contrast starkly with Spitzer, who has run a campaign largely centered on enhancing public safety by punishing criminals.

Among the issues debated during the campaign: How to deal with rising crime, the management of the district attorney’s office, law enforcement accountability, the death penalty and justice reform.


The candidates

Race overview

Spitzer, a Republican, is limping from self-inflicted wounds after racist comments he made surfaced last month, as well as a video of him saying the N-word while quoting a hate crime defendant.

March 12, 2022

Issues inside the D.A.’s office

With a primary election against two former prosecutors set for June, it is unclear how much the comments will ultimately hurt Spitzer, especially in O.C., where tough-on-crime candidates are typically popular.

Feb. 23, 2022

Orange County D.A. says he’ll drop all charges against a Newport Beach doctor and his girlfriend accused of drugging and sexually assaulting women.

Feb. 4, 2020

At a meeting of prosecutors, Spitzer allegedly said he knows “many black people who get themselves out of their bad circumstances and bad situations by only dating white women.”

Feb. 16, 2022

O.C. Dist. Atty. Todd Spitzer defends using the N-word in a speech to lawyers in 2019: ‘Hate is ugly and the words haters use ... is even uglier.’

Feb. 23, 2022

Orange County Dist. Atty. Todd Spitzer’s reelection campaign features a hashtag he coined: #NoLAinOC.

Jan. 16, 2022

Pete Hardin, a former federal prosecutor, is questioning why Orange County Dist. Atty. Todd Spitzer did not follow a police recommendation to file felony charges in the aftermath of a violent locker-room fight that, according to a recently filed lawsuit, left a teenage football player with a traumatic brain injury.

Dec. 1, 2021

Orange County Dist. Atty. Todd Spitzer built his career on ‘tough-on-crime’ rhetoric while ignoring racial inequity in the justice system.

Feb. 18, 2021

Readings from other publications

Breaking down the issues in the district attorney’s race
(OC Register)

How the candidates would tackle crime
(OC Register)

Video: Forum of DA candidates
(League of Women Voters)

Where the candidates stand on the issues?
(Voice of OC)