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GOOD Voter Guide to California: Attorney General

Who is running for Attorney General in California and what you need to know about them.

Over the course of the next two weeks, we will be publishing primers about the important items on the ballot in California as part of our GOOD Voter Guide.

The Attorney General is housed in the Department of Justice and works to lead and educate on law enforcement, justice, safety, equal opportunity, and economic prosperity.

Peter Allen

Political Party: Green

Candidate Platform: Post-partisan and in it for the long haul, Peter argues that most politicians favor “short term spin and protecting their own power" instead of prioritizing the welfare of the state and its inhabitants. His top priorities align with the Greens: crime, the environment, the economy, political reform, and education.

Background and History: Allen received his bachelor’s from UC Santa Cruz and his law degree from the University of San Diego. After a stint as a prosecutor at the San Diego City Attorney’s Office, Allen started working for TURN, a San Francisco-based consumer group. He then joined with the California Public Utilities Commission, advising them on environmental issues.

Death Penalty: Allen supports an end to the death penalty, saying that its astronomical costs are crippling the state, monopolizing its most capable and experienced prosecutors, and backlogging the courts.

Prop. 8: Allen has not said whether or not he would take the Prop. 8 case to the Supreme Court, but his campaign website says “government should not be in the business of telling us who to marry.”

Three Strikes Law: Allen has said, vaguely, that he supports creating a society where “violent criminals are punished not just by the state and the criminal justice system, but by everyone.”

Drugs: Allen supports the decriminalization of all drugs.

Economic Responsibility / Justice: Allen is adamant about fair competition and being real about true cost of businesses, the war on drugs, and education. He has said he wants to lower income tax and sales tax, and instead tax things like drugs, oil, cars, gasoline, and toxic chemicals.

Environmental Responsibility: This has long been Allen's cardinal issue, and he has long demonstrated his support for renewable energy. He opposes the creation of more nuclear power planets and off shore drilling in California, and supports making cars and trucks "bear a fair share of the true costs" in order to support public transportation.

Education: Allen talks about education as an economic issue, arguing that the state is ruining an investment that was previously made, and that the long-term costs of not investing in education are dire.

Reproductive Freedom: He supports existing California law and the federal precedent set by Roe v. Wade.

Fun Facts: Allen is an artist and photographer, an amateur musician, a volunteer junior sailing instructor, and an adoptive parent.

Sources: Peter Allen for Attorney General; California Voter Guide

Steve Cooley

Political Party: Republican

Candidate Platform: Steve Cooley wants to fight crime both in the streets of Los Angeles and in the world of politics. His key issues for the election are public corruption, foreign extradition, fraud, and gang prosecution.

Background and History: Cooley was raised by an F.B.I.-employed father and a homemaker mom. He graduated from California State in 1970 and went on to USC Gould School of Law, where he received his law degree in 1973. Cooley then joined the L.A. County District Attorney’s Office, where he served as a prosecutor for 27 years and as a reserve LAPD officer for seven. In 2000, Cooley was elected as L.A. County’s D.A., he got a second term in 2004, and yet another in 2008. Cooley’s office prosecutes 60,000 felonies and 130,000 misdemeanors annually. He oversees an annual operating budget of more than $330 million.

Death Penalty: Cooley supports the death penalty. As D.A., his office obtained 13 death-penalty verdicts in 2009, according to the San Francisco Chronicle—four more than the entire state of Texas during that same time.

Prop. 8: Cooley would defend Prop. 8, and would use the state's resources to do so.

Three Strikes Law: Cooley coauthored the Three Strikes Reform Act of 2006. Cooley supported the ballot measure that would have changed the Three Strikes Law (it didn't pass), and he left the Calilfornia District Attorneys' Association in 2006 due to political differences over this law.

Drugs: Cooley is against the decriminalization of marijuana and opposes Proposition 19. As D.A., he worked to shut down medical marijuana dispensaries in L.A. County.

Battling Crime: Cooley created the Public Integrity Division to monitor and prosecute politicians, as well as the Justice System Integrity Division. (There is some controversy around this, in the form of a federal lawsuit filed by the Association of Deputy District Attorneys alleging that Cooley made it a policy to punish its members with punitive transfers, demotions, reduced benefits, and other disciplinary measures.) Cooley has placed an emphasis on using DNA and other new technologies to solve cold-cases. His office co-authored Proposition 69, passed in 2004, to allow for the collection of DNA samples from all people arrested for or charged with a felony. Cooley’s office also prioritizes combating intellectual-property theft and other cybercrimes.

Environmental Responsibility: In 2003, citing budget restraints, Cooley closed the District Attorney’s Environmental Crimes unit, leaving one attorney to cover all environmental crimes in L.A. County. He has declined to take a public stance on Prop. 23, which would halt California's Global Warming Solutions Act.

Health Care: He also opposed the health care reform bill passed by Congress in March, and has vowed to sue for its repeal.

Reproductive Freedom: Spokespeople for Cooley say that he is "pro-choice." The pro-choice organization NARAL has criticized Cooley for not clarifying his stance, however.

Key Donors and Endorsements: The L.A. Police Union, the Association of California School Administrators, the Farm Bureau,? California Women’s Leadership Association, Metropolitan-News Enterprise,? Los Angeles Times, ?San Francisco Chronicle, ?Sacramento Bee,? Modesto Bee,? Fresno Bee,? Contra Costa Times,? Oakland Tribune.

Fun Facts: He is a history buff who enjoys collecting memorabilia, including a suitcase that had belonged to Michael Jackson and the clothes that U.S. Senator Robert F. Kennedy was wearing when he was shot to death at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles on June 5, 1968.

Sources: Steve Cooley Website; L.A. County Web Site; L.A. Weekly (2), Los Angeles Times (2); SF Gate (2); L.A. Sentinel; Christian Science Monitor; CA Majority Report

Robert J. Evans

Political Party: Peace and Freedom

Background and History: Evans received his bachelor’s and law degrees from UC Berkeley. He has been in private practice for the last 40 years doing civil and real estate law and has served on Berkeley’s Rent Stabilization Board.

Death Penalty: Evans is against the death penalty.

Prop. 8: He supports gay marriage.

Three Strikes Law: Wants to repeal Three Strikes.

Drugs: Evans is in favor of legalizing marijuana and decriminalizing other drugs.

Reproductive Freedom: Evans pro-choice, and the Peace and Freedom Party also supports a platform of free abortion on demand.

Fun Facts: Robert Evans is in no way related to the legendary producer of the same name. His party has adopted “The Internationale”—which until 1944 served as the anthem of the Soviet Union—as its official party music.

Battling Crime: He wants to create a special unit of the Attorney General’s Office to investigate police violence and, where appropriate, “prosecute badge-wearing criminals.”

Sources: Justice for California; Peace and Freedom Party Website

Timothy J. Hannan

Political Party: Libertarian Party

Background and History: Hannan received his BA from the University of San Francisco and his law degree from Georgetown University. Hannan was a Lt. Commander in the Coast Guard Reserve, where he served for 11 years. He now practices real estate law in Santa Rosa.

Death Penalty: Hannan is against the death penalty, writing: "None please. Seriously no death penalty."

Prop. 8: In an email he wrote, “If elected Attorney General, I would defend Prop. 8 in possible higher court challenges. I would do so because the California Constitution charges the Attorney General with responsibility for enforcing California’s laws 'uniformly and adequately.' I personally voted against Prop. 8 because, as a Libertarian, I believe in maximum individual freedom (“live and let live”). But since Prop. 8 was legitimately voted into law by a majority of the voters, I have to respect their decision. If the courts ultimately decide that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional under the Equal Protection Clause, then I will honor and enforce that decision as well.”

Three Strikes Law: He is opposed to the Three Strikes Law, especially as it is applied to non-violent offenders. "Every case is unique," he says. "Judges need far more flexibility in sentencing offenders that Three Strikes allows. I understand the angry popular sentiment that gave rise to Three Strikes. But I think it is a clumsy, heavy-handed, unintelligent reaction to the crime problem. I recommend abolishing the Three Strikes Law.”

Drugs: Hannan is in favor of legalizing marijuana. His stance on other drugs is unclear.

Reproductive Freedom: Hannan believes the government does not have any right to tell an adult woman she cannot terminate her pregnancy. He does however favor parental notification for abortions performed on minors.

Fun Fact: His campaign site features a zoomable picture of the candidate's face.

Sources: Email correspondence with the candidate; Tim Hannan Campaign Website; Smolen Camapaign Website

Kamala D. Harris

Political Party: Democrat

Candidate Platform: Harris believes that we have to be tough on crime but also smart on crime. Her top priority would be to battle the state’s 70 percent recidivism rate. Other priorities include battling hate crimes and protecting civil rights and marriage equality, environmental preservation, financial fraud, and more.

Background and History: Harris was born in the East Bay to a Tamil Indian breast cancer specialist and a Jamaican American economics professor. She got her BA from Howard University and her law degree from the University of California’s Hastings College of Law in San Francisco. Once graduated, she started her career as a Deputy D.A. in Alameda County, where she specialized in prosecuting child sexual assault cases. She later worked in the San Francisco D.A.’s Office, and in 2003 became the first woman elected D.A. of San Francisco. Under Kamala, the San Francisco D.A. has had the highest felony conviction rate in almost 15 years. She has received various awards, and has been recognized by Oprah and Newsweek for being one of “America’s 20 Most Powerful Women.”

Death Penalty: Harris personally opposes the death penalty, but said she’d uphold it if elected Attorney General. As the DA in San Francisco, she refused to seek the death penalty against a gang member who killed a San Francisco Police Officer in 2004, sparking a fair amount of controversy, and much criticism from her Republican opponent.

Prop. 8: Kamala is “committed to doing everything within the power of the Attorney General's office and the law to join in the effort to repeal Prop 8.” In 2006, she organized and led a national conference to confront the “gay-transgender panic defense” that has been used to try and justify brutal hate killings

Three Strikes Law: Harris said her policy has only been to seek 25 to life for a third strike if the conviction is for a serious offense.

Drugs: In March, Harris opposed a bill to legalize the recreational use of marijuana and opposes Prop. 19.

Immigration: Harris has overseen the implementation of free legal clinics in immigrant communities in San Francisco. She "recognize[s] that there are 12 million undocumented immigrants who are already here [in the U.S.], and [she wants to] help them transition toward compliance with the law, without jumping ahead in the line."

Battling Crime: In 2005 her office created the program “Back on Track” —an employment and reentry initiative focusing on reducing recidivism among young adults and nonviolent drug offenders. The National District Attorney's Association and U.S. Department of Justice have selected Back on Track as a model re-entry program for prosecutors' offices across the country.

Economic Responsibility / Justice: As DA, Harris has prioritized the prosecution of financial predators, processing over 450 consumer complaints in 2009 and forming the state's first stand-alone mortgage and investment fraud unit.

Environmental Responsibility: As AG she would “vigorously” uphold the enforcement of California’s Global Warming Solution Act and focus on the use of state criminal laws in order to protect the environment.

Health Care: She supports federal health care legislation.

Reproductive Freedom: Harris is pro-choice and has a NARAL endorsement to prove it. She has worked to reduce unplanned pregnancies as well as to protect a woman’s right to choose.

Fun Fact: If elected, Harris would be a series of firsts for the state of California: First woman elected AG, first Asian-American, and first African-American.

Key Donors and Endorsements: Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi, Dolores Huerta, Diane Feinstein, former LA Police Chief William Bratton, California Professional Firefighters, California Labor Federation, San Francisco Chronicle, the L.A. Sentinel, and many nonprofits.

Sources: Kamala Harris campaign Website; Los Angeles Times (2); SFist; SFGate; ABC News; San Francisco D.A. Office Website; Huffington Post

Diane Beall Templin

Political Party: American Independent Party.

Background and History: Templin got her BA and JD from SUNY Buffalo. She passed the bar in 1979 and currently works in Escondido as the head of a firm that defends low-income people. She has run for President three times on the Independent American Party ticket.

Candidate Platform: Her website says that she favors a “government based on the 10 commandments.”

Prop. 8: Her official stance is unclear but she has said that marriage is between a man and a woman and that she wants to “assert the role of the law in establishing and reinforcing the mutual rights and obligations of that God-ordained contract.”

Fun Facts: Templin’s website says she’s a big fan of swing dancing.

Sources: Templin Campaign Website; SFGate; Smart Voter

Some disclaimers: This guide is a volunteer operation, not produced by GOOD. Due to research fatigue, lame candidate websites, and Murphy's Law, you may spot a mistake or two. Some candidates simply don’t provide a lot of info, and our researcher styles varied, so some profiles may differ or seem a bit incomplete.

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