For Rackauckas, the financial picture isn't so bright. In the first six months of this year, campaign-finance-disclosure statements show he raised nothing. He's got $74,000 in campaign debt and only $2,660 cash on hand. Nevertheless, the DA isn't someone to underestimate. Twice—in 1998 and 2002—he crushed challenger Wally Wade, a veteran prosecutor. He can raise a substantial amount of money from the county's well-to-do trial lawyers and big businessmen. He enjoys support from major OC Republicans, Democrats—including Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez and State Senator Joe Dunn—as well as from labor and Latino leaders. He's won praise for his efforts to reduce violent-gang crimes and increase child-support payments. Critics, some of them in law enforcement, ridicule Rackauckas for questionable ethics and poor management skills.
A Spitzer run at Rackauckas isn't guaranteed when the DA slot is up for election in June 2006. The assemblyman could decide to seek a third term or campaign for the seat currently occupied by outgoing state Senator Dick Ackerman (R-Fullerton). But if the Spitzer vs. Rackauckas match-up materializes, expect a slugfest. One prominent Republican promised a "guaranteed bloodbath like the county's never seen before."
The gloves are already off. For example, Rackauckas allies say that Spitzer requested stress leave when he served as a deputy prosecutor. They've asked, "If Todd couldn't handle the pressure working as a deputy DA, how can the public expect him to carry out the duties as Orange County's district attorney?"
Spitzer said he never took stress leave and called the allegation an "outrageous, farfetched fabrication." To prove his point, the assemblyman signed a legal waiver allowing the Weekly access to county personnel records detailing his service as a deputy DA from 1990 to 1996. The reviewed records showed no stress leave.
Spitzer called the charge a "red herring."
"We know what happens when prosecutors abuse their powers," he said. "I encourage everyone to think deeply about what's happening to our county's criminal justice system. It's time people started to evaluate this DA. Is he consistent? Is he reliable?"
If the Limbaugh crowd was any indication, Spitzer's message could resonate. The 40 or so conservatives applauded generously at the conclusion of his presentation. Numerous people smiled broadly when they shook the assemblyman's hand. A lady sitting at my table said, "Now that was an eye opener. He certainly knows what's going on."