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Very early returns Tuesday in the Orange County district attorney’s race showed Todd Spitzer, challenger to incumbent Tony Rackauckas, with a notable lead.

The election culminated months of flame-throwing between Rackauckas, who has held the position for two decades, and Spitzer, his former protégé. The winner will lead an office that handles more than 60,000 cases a year and wields an annual budget of about $145 million.

The race for Orange County’s top prosecutor was among the ugliest in Southern California, and a key test for an office that has been repeatedly rocked by scandal in recent years.

Spitzer, an Orange County supervisor and former assemblyman, most recently accused Rackauckas of subverting the criminal justice system for political gain by waiting to file a high-profile rape case until just before the midterm elections.

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