The race for the position of Orange County's district attorney, pitting the incumbent against a county supervisor, is playing out more like a prosecution with the candidates hurling accusations about each other's records.
Until now, sitting DA Tony Rackauckas has faced little opposition since he was first elected 20 years ago. But his opponent, Supervisor Todd Spitzer, is seizing on recent scandals within the DA's office to highlight long-seething allegations of corruption and cronyism at the agency.
At the top of Spitzer's list of critiques is the so-called jailhouse snitch scandal that led to the DA's office being blocked from seeking the death penalty against convicted Seal Beach mass murderer Scott Dekraai. Last year, the supervisor even asked federal authorities to execute an emergency takeover of the agency.
More recently, Spitzer's also raised questions about the investigation into a Newport Beach surgeon and his girlfriend charged with drugging and raping several women, saying there were delays in their arrests during which the suspects were allowed to travel internationally.
But for his part, Rackauckas points to high turnover in Spitzer's county supervisor's office and previous allegations of campaign fund misuse.
Rackauckas also accuses his challenger of erratic behavior, pointing to a 2015 incident in which Spitzer — a former Los Angeles police reserve officer — arrested a man while leaving lunch at a Wahoo's Fish Taco.
The two men used to be friends and worked together for a time until Rackauckas fired Spitzer from a position within his office eight years ago — "and they’ve been public enemies ever since," the O.C. Register reported.
Whoever wins will lead an office with a budget of $144.8 million that last year prosecution 60,000 cases, reaching a conviction in 90 percent of them, according to the Register.