Los Angeles City Atty. Carmen Trutanich, who pledged two years ago not to seek another political office while working for the city, took a step Friday toward violating his promise by filing papers declaring an interest in running for district attorney.
The entry of the city's top lawyer into the campaign to replace Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley would shake up a race that has so far attracted five county prosecutors who are little known outside legal circles.
John Shallman, a senior political advisor to Trutanich, said the city attorney has been "deluged by leaders in law enforcement" urging him to run if Cooley decides against a reelection bid. He said Trutanich filed paperwork to form an exploratory committee for the post but had not yet committed to running.
Trutanich said late Friday that he would not consider entering the race if Cooley seeks a historic fourth term. But he said he was concerned that waiting for Cooley to make an announcement could leave him far behind in fundraising. Friday's move, he said, was designed to let potential donors and key endorsement targets know that he might be interested in the position.
"If I wait, I'll be so far behind the eight ball that I won't be able to effectively make a decision. The decision would be made by timing," Trutanich said.
A spokesman for one of the candidates, Alan Jackson, accused Trutanich of violating his pledge not to run for another office.
"Apparently Carmen Trutanich does not value his word or the voters of the city of Los Angeles. How are we supposed to believe anything Trutanich says?" political consultant John S. Thomas said.
Thomas worked for Trutanich on his 2009 city attorney campaign and distributed the pledge.
During the campaign, Trutanich called on then-City Councilman Jack Weiss to join him in swearing to seek a second term should he become city attorney and to promise not to run for another office, including district attorney, while serving in the post. The pledge called on the election winner to donate $100,000 to an afterschool program and to take out full-page newspaper ads declaring "I AM A LIAR" if he violated the terms.
Trutanich, a former deputy district attorney, declined to comment on the pledge or on Thomas' criticism, referring calls to Shallman.
In an email response, Shallman discounted Trutanich's earlier pledge.
"Michael Jordan pledged he wouldn't play another game of basketball. Then he came back and won three championships. The only people who were unhappy were his opponents. That seems to be the case here," he said in the email. "Voters don't care about the politics, they just want the best person for the job — especially when it comes to public safety."
Among those stumping for Trutanich is Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca, who this week urged others to persuade the city attorney to enter the race if Cooley decides to retire. In a letter sent to law enforcement officials and community and political leaders, the sheriff described Trutanich as the "one person I can think of who is most capable of stepping into that job and working with me as a partner in keeping L.A. County safe."
Cooley has said he would consider running for another term if no qualified candidates stepped up or if what he called an "undeserving and unworthy" contender appeared to be headed for victory. Five prosecutors with the district attorney's office — including Jackson, Bobby Grace, Jacquelyn Lacey, Danette Meyers and Mario Trujillo — are campaigning to replace him.