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CAMPAIGN 2000 | COUNTY JUDGES

Landslide Loss Ends Capizzi's Public Career

'This is the last political race that I will involve myself in,' the former district attorney says after being defeated by more than 20 percentage points.

March 09, 2000|RICHARD MAROSI | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Former Orange County Dist. Atty. Mike Capizzi says he has run his last race.

Hard on the heels of his landslide judicial election loss to a relative unknown, Capizzi on Wednesday said that he will never again seek public office. The county's former top prosecutor was upset in a race for a Superior Court judgeship by Stephanie George, a deputy district attorney who defeated her former boss by more than 20 percentage points.

The loss marks the apparent end of what was one of Orange County's most controversial political careers.

Once a rising star who had hopes for state office, Capizzi raised the ire of GOP loyalists after he began pursuing high-profile political corruption cases against fellow Republicans.

Political observers say the lack of Republican support cost him dearly in the judicial election. He also failed, they say, to garner the backing of most law enforcement organizations and many key Democrats.

Capizzi's campaign tactics also came under question when a judge threw out an attempt by his supporters to remove George from the ballot on a technicality. Critics say the tactic smelled of the kind of dirty politicking usually associated with general election races, not judicial races.

"I think some of the things the Capizzi campaign did obviously backfired," said Jennifer Keller, a criminal defense attorney and past president of the Orange County Bar Assn. "It just wasn't the sort of thing most of us expect to see from somebody we expect to be a judge. We hold judges to higher standards than that."

Capizzi declined to speculate on the reasons for his loss and said he plans to continue his private practice career defending law enforcement administrations statewide.

"I am not going to waste time looking back. That's history. I'm just going to look forward to practicing law and enjoying life," he said. "This is the last political race that I will involve myself in."

Capizzi supporters expressed regret at his decision not to run again. They say he will be remembered best as a prosecutor who wasn't afraid to take on the political establishment.

"He took the view of protecting the public's best interest and not protecting . . . the political party in power," said Shirley Grindle, a longtime county political watchdog.

But opponents said Capizzi was "overzealous" in his pursuit of political corruption cases, some of which were later tossed out by judges.

"The people who knew and followed what had gone [on] didn't agree with what he was doing," said George, who will take her judicial post next year. "That's why he lost in the [state attorney general's] election and that's why he lost here."

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