Commentary:  Audacity?  Spitzer Skips Debate and Then Attacks His Opponent for What He Said

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(Photo by Paul Bersebach/MediaNews Group/Orange County Register via Getty Images) (Getty Images)

By David M. Greenwald
Executive Editor

Santa Ana, CA – Should an incumbent skip a debate forum where the venue figures to be on unfriendly terrain?  I can understand why one would want to do that—but at the same time, doing so should be fair grounds for scrutiny and tough questions.

But what about skipping the venue and then attacking their opponent(s) from the sidelines?

A word that comes to mind: audacity.  I might add, bad form.

Look, I’m not naïve and I realize that campaigns are not governed by informal rules of fairness and reciprocity—but that’s why it is all the more important to call out bad form.

It’s one thing to skip out on a forum if you are the incumbent and don’t want to face the wrath of your opponents.  Not a great thing itself.  But to skip out entirely and then attack your opponent?  That’s just bad.

But I guess we shouldn’t be surprised by anything Todd Spitzer does these days.

The Vanguard covered the candidates’ forum this week from Monday.  Apparently, Spitzer will attend one on May 4—hosted by the North Orange County Bar Association.

But the big problem from my standpoint is that Spitzer sent out a press release at the end of the day Tuesday attacking one of his opponents, Pete Hardin, for things said at the very forum that Spitzer missed.

“Pete Hardin Goes Full Woke at Candidate Forum, Echoes Exact Same Policies as LADA George Gascon,” the press release said.  “Hardin committed to ending the prosecution of juveniles as adults, no cash bail, no sentence enhancements, no prosecution of misdemeanors, no death penalty, and more.”

Spitzer put out a release that said, “During the forum, Hardin proudly parroted Gascon and vocalized his support for pro-criminal policies that are contributing to the destruction of places like Los Angeles and San Francisco…”

Among these:

  • Ending the prosecution of juveniles as adults
  • No cash bail
  • No gun or gang enhancements
  • No prosecution of misdemeanors
  • No death penalty
  • No gang injunctions
  • Defund the police by ending qualified immunity
  • Pro-sanctuary state laws

Spitzer said, “Pete Hardin let the cat out of the bag during the candidate forum by unequivocally demonstrating he is a carbon copy of failed LADA George Gascon.  Hardin’s pro-criminal platform mirrors Gascon’s radical agenda to a tee. Hardin promised to bring the same dangerous policies to Orange County, which would destroy public safety and turn us into another Los Angeles.  Hardin’s open support for the woke criminal justice agenda should be a major warning to all Orange County residents – your safety is at stake in the upcoming District Attorney’s race.”

The Vanguard talked to Tim Lineberger, one of Spitzer’s campaign spokespeople: “As the organizers were made aware weeks prior, DA Spitzer was unavailable to attend.”

Lineberger said, “Exposing that Hardin is a clone of George Gascon is not only appropriate.”

He said, “Hardin is feigning ignorance and trying to deceive voters despite championing the exact same pro-criminal agenda as George Gascon.  If you perceive the mere sharing of Hardin’s policy positions – in his own words no less – as an inappropriate attack, that might suggest his platform is the problem.  

“If anything, Hardin should be proud of the soft-on-crime policies he is parroting and share our video.  He won’t though, because he knows his agenda is unpopular in Orange County.”

Spitzer is certainly entitled to his views of Hardin.  The question here is whether he should be able to skip a debate—even for legitimate reasons—and then use material from the debate as fodder for attack.

Spitzer’s whole campaign strategy, it seems, is to link Hardin to LA DA George Gascón’s policies.  He even announced his reelection bid on the border of Los Angeles and Orange Counties.

The problem that Spitzer faces is that his office is facing mounting controversies of its own and so, while Spitzer can fire shots against Hardin, he was not answering the very serious concerns raised not only by Hardin but by the other candidates.

As one of his opponents, Bryan Chehock, said, “with respect to the district attorney’s office. I believe it should be apolitical and, and committed to the ensuring the fair, equal, and transparent administration of justice. Unfortunately, we have had the past two office holders be rocked by scandals. The current district attorney has used racist and derogatory language in public and behind closed doors. It’s facing multiple lawsuits that may cost the county millions of dollars and continues to engage in behavior that only further alienates members of this community.”

He said, “Quite frankly, I entered this race because I believe Orange County deserves better.”

Michael Jacobs is critical of Spitzer as well, noting that he had supervised Spitzer when he was on the felony panel and “he did nine trials and then he left the office.”

He argued, “You’ve had serious cases that have been compromised.  You have 16 lawsuits that have been filed.”  Later he noted that of those 16 lawsuits, 15 of them were filed by women.  “So there seems to be a management problem there having to do with gender that (he) needs to work out.”

In March it came to light that Spitzer’s racial remarks during a death penalty decision meeting caused the DA to concede the death penalty in that case.

“We are investigating these allegations,” said Sergio Perez, who as OIR [Office of Independent Review] director is tasked under county law with investigating law enforcement misconduct.  He told the Voice of Orange County in March, “The allegations are quite serious because they get to the heart…of the criminal justice system’s commitment to treat everybody fairly, regardless of who they are.”

It would seem like these are issues that the DA does not want to have to answer for.  That’s understandable.  But to avoid that forum and take potshots from the sidelines hardly seems to do the democratic process justice.

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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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