Supervising Deputy District Attorney Cynthia Zimmer took an early lead in the race to become Kern County top prosecutor — and she held that lead over her co-worker, Assistant District Attorney Scott Spielman.
The two candidates were angling to replace District Attorney Lisa Green, who went unchallenged in 2010 to succeed former top prosecutor Ed Jagels.
Both candidates have decades of experience in the District Attorney’s Office, both are Republicans and both point to dramatic gang convictions as among their best work in court.
But despite any similarities, their race to fill a nonpartisan office was divisive, splitting Kern’s law enforcement community and the local Republican Party.
Green sided with Spielman and Jagels endorsed Zimmer. While unions representing Bakersfield police officers and Kern County sheriff’s deputies threw their support behind Zimmer, Sheriff Donny Youngblood backed Spielman, as did two former Bakersfield Police Department chiefs.
The two candidates have taken different tones on the issue of officer-involved shootings. Spielman, a former U.S. Army military police officer, helped the District Attorney’s Office put in place a review process of all such shootings in the county, pushing for public transparency. Zimmer, on the other hand, blamed “assassin journalism” for negative public perception of local law enforcement, emphasizing that police shootings are down and crimes against officers are up.
Zimmer said her top priority would be the reduction of violent crime, most of which she attributed to gang activity. Also on her list: the protection of small cities in rural areas and working with lawmakers and other district attorneys to “stop the destructive effects that our liberal Legislature is having on law enforcement” through decriminalization efforts.
She said that if she wins, “I’m going to be that strong voice” speaking to lawmakers.
Spielman said his top priority, if he wins, would be to “get a handle on the crime rate,” which he said has risen because of prisoner releases ordered by Sacramento. After that, he would hope to institute better computer technology as a way of more quickly analyzing important data.
He recalled an instance in which the FBI took a full year to analyze pertinent information provided by the Kern County District Attorney’s Office.
“We need to be able to do that ourselves so we’re not at the mercy of an agency that has (its) own priorities,” he said.
Karen Rhea, the county’s assistant registrar of voters, said vote tallies did not always add up to 100 percent because some people voted for both candidates, some neither, and others wrote in their own choice.