This week’s endorsement of Republican Steve Cooley by the California State Law Enforcement Association will not make or break the attorney general’s race. But it is the latest example of the difficulties Democrat Kamala Harris is having rallying support from rank and file police officers.
Many law enforcement groups, even ones who have been sympathetic to Democrats in the past, are flocking to Cooley’s candidacy over Harris. Last month, the Peace Officers Research Association of California backed the entire Democratic ticket except in the attorney general’s race, where they picked Cooley over Harris.
PORAC President Ron Cottingham, whose association represents more than 62,000 law enforcement personnel, noted Cooley “has been a tireless supporter of law enforcement. He has dedicated his professional life to keeping Californians safe.”
Alan Barcelona, president of CSLEA, said Harris’s decision not to seek the death penalty in the case of the muder of San Francisco police officer Isaac Espinoza “was just something our members couldn’t get over.” Barcelona said Harris explained her position in three different interviews with her group. “I have a lot of respect for her as a person,” he said. “She told us where she was coming from, and I believe she thinks she made a mistake” in not seeking the death penalty for Espinoza’s killer.
Harris campaign manager Brian Brokaw said Harris has expressed regret for announcing she would not seek the death penalty for Espinoza’s killer before his funeral services were even held. And he noted the jury convicted David Hill of second-degree murder in the case – a crime that is not eligible for the death penalty. Hill is currently serving life in prison without possibility of parole.
Brokaw also noted members of the law enforcement community who are backing Harris’ AG bid. “Kamala Harris is endorsed by some of California’s most respected law enforcement leaders, including former LAPD Chief Bill Bratton, and the chiefs of police in San Diego, San Francisco and Oakland, along with other chiefs and sheriffs around the state,” he said. “She’s proud to be supported by the California Professional Firefighters, as well as a dozen district attorneys from around the state who serve with and know both candidates well, and they’re supporting Kamala Harris.”
CSLEA also endorsed Republican Meg Whitman for governor, calling Democratic contender Jerry Brown “erratic” on key issues.