The Republican, who lost a close race for state attorney general to Democrat Kamala Harris, says he would consider running in 2012 if a qualified candidate didn’t enter the race.

L.A. County Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley narrowly lost the race for state attorney general to San Francisco’s district attorney, Kamala Harris. But Cooley drew more votes than any other Republican on the ballot. (Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times)

By Jack Leonard, Los Angeles Times
December 2, 2010

In his first campaign news conference since narrowly losing his bid for California attorney general, Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley said Wednesday that he would not rule out running for a fourth term as the county’s top prosecutor.

Cooley said his main focus was on finishing the final two years of his term, but he would consider trying for reelection in 2012 if no qualified candidates stepped up to succeed him or some “undeserving and unworthy” contenders appeared likely to win.

“There are people I know that are quite ambitious, who would covet this office, and once they occupied it would predictably denigrate it and ruin it, despite the best efforts of the staff,” he said at a news conference in his downtown Los Angeles office. He declined to give names.

Cooley, 63, said he would vigorously vet candidates before endorsing anyone hoping to become district attorney. He said contenders must be prosecutors with a commitment to running a nonpartisan office.

“I would not let my 10 years as district attorney … be wasted by having some politician-type who is not a professional prosecutor occupy this seat,” he said.

In 2000, while first running for district attorney, Cooley pledged to seek only two terms if elected.

Cooley, a Republican, lost one of the closest statewide races in California history to San Francisco Dist. Atty. Kamala Harris as Democrats won every statewide office in the Nov. 2 election.

Cooley was an early favorite but lost by more than 14 percentage points in Los Angeles County, where he won three elections to the nonpartisan post of district attorney, becoming the first person to do so in more than 70 years.

Some political strategists criticized Cooley for not waging a more aggressive campaign for attorney general.

On Wednesday, Cooley said there were probably things that he could have done differently but that he was “not going to dwell on it.” He cited the death of his chief political strategist, Joe Shumate, about a month before the election as a major setback.

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