Monday, February 22, 2010
McK Press - Can he win again?
The word “change” is synonymous with District Attorney Paul Gallegos, but it’s a word that’s being used in different contexts as he begins a campaign for a third term.
Gallegos still draws an impressive support base that wants him to continue to carry out his vision for a reformed DA’s Office.
But after seven years of controversial decisions and unmet expectations, some of Gallegos’ past supporters are working for another change – a DA’s Office that’s aligned with Gallegos’ values but helmed by someone else.
In the June primary election, the liberal vote will be split between Gallegos and candidate Paul Hagen, and to a lesser extent, Kathleen Bryson.
Forecasting the conservative vote is up in the air now as no candidate who can be defined that way has emerged – officially.
But one will, and a name is being heavily mentioned – Allison Jackson, a former deputy DA who was fired by Gallegos shortly after the failed attempt to recall him in 2004.
With progressive-friendly candidates in the mix, a run-off election is virtually ensured. Gallegos remains a front-runner, and absent another liberal candidate, gaining a third term in June would be a realistic goal.
But some have doubts that he could get over 50 percent of the vote even under those conditions. The reason why is that disenchantment with Gallegos, once owned mostly by the conservative side of the county’s culture war, is now more pervasive.
The shift can be seen in Arcata, where Gallegos’ support has been dominant. Hagen has been involved in the community and has been politically active, volunteering for successful campaigns. The outcome is that people who are looking for a progressive alternative to Gallegos are supporting Hagen, and they include well-known county and city political figures.
Why the disappointment in Gallegos? People who don’t support him anymore are saying he’s inaccessible and doesn’t live up to commitments. Abrupt decision-making in some highly-watched court cases has alienated groups of former Gallegos supporters and contributed to a belief that he’s unreliable.
Of course, if it comes down to Gallegos versus a candidate like Jackson in the general election, the liberal votes that Hagen gets in the primary will go back to Gallegos. But some say he’s going to lose something that translates into lost votes – campaign volunteers and, perhaps, donations.
Considering that Gallegos only got a 53 percent majority when he ran against Worth Dikeman, even a small subtraction of political energy is significant. And those who campaigned for Dikeman are a more seasoned group now and by all accounts, their desire to replace Gallegos is red hot.
Still, the DA has seven years of incumbency and support from key blocs like environmental groups on his side.
His emphasis on treatment instead of jail time in drug- and alcohol-related cases and initiation of new programs like a homeless court is part of the attitude shift that his supporters wished for.
The controversial and allegedly political court cases that are said to demonstrate his lack of acumen have probably impressed as many people as they’ve angered.
And although there’s a buzz about Gallegos being an ineffective manager, no one has ever said he’s an ineffective campaigner.
By Daniel Mintz
Press Staff Writer
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