The County Board of Supervisors has a decision on its hands.

Greg Walden, a former deputy district attorney who retired after over 30 years in the office, is looking to become interim district attorney. Bonnie Dumanis, the current DA, announced last month that she’ll resign her seat in July, leaving the Board of Supervisors to appoint a temporary successor until the 2018 election.

Earlier this week, Adam Gordon, a former deputy district attorney who’s now in private practice, also applied for the position. Both Gordon and Walden have pledged not to run in the 2018 election.

They join Chief Deputy District Attorney Summer Stephan, who is seeking the appointment and is already running for the seat in 2018. She’s collected a powerful list of bipartisan endorsements, including most of the county’s law enforcement and prosecutorial leaders.

But it’s the support of Dumanis that is giving people pause, and which drew Walden and Gordon into the fray. Stephan, meanwhile, said the concerns are nothing but trumped-up political machinations.

Earlier this year, Dumanis reportedly told supporters of her “succession plan,” in which she would resign early so the supervisors could appoint her chosen successor, who could then run in 2018 as an incumbent. Incumbency is a powerful advantage in down-ticket, low-information races.


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Walden said he was troubled by what seemed like a “coronation” of the next DA.

“I don’t think one person should be able to choose who the next DA should be, and that’s what appears to be in play right now,” he said. “I would have thought that if the DA doesn’t want to finish out her term, that we have an assistant DA who could handle the job until the next election. (Assistant DA) Jesse Rodriguez would do an excellent job – this seems to be a manipulation of the process going on. They’re taking away the opportunity for the people of San Diego to vote on who their next DA should be.”

Walden said his relationship with Dumanis before he retired was cordial and professional. He declined to comment on Stephan’s qualifications. He previously criticized the union that represents county prosecutors and its political action committee for endorsing Stephan just a week after Dumanis announced her resignation, before anyone else had announced a run.

“Hopefully the County Board of Supervisors will have enough information with this application, they’ll go out into the legal community and vet the candidates,” he said. “I think it’s important that they have a choice.”

Gordon said his aversion to appointing a supervisor who could then run for re-election as an incumbent isn’t political – he’s a Republican, like Dumanis, Stephan and all of the county supervisors.

“The moral principal behind this is having the voters be the ones to decide, because incumbency is so strong,” he said. “That’s a first principle.”

He also said whoever serves as the interim DA shouldn’t be distracted by running for re-election.

“The interim DA needs to be focused on doing the job,” Gordon said.

Stephan, though, called the argument typical politics and said the idea that appointing her to the office would bypass voters is “illusory” and a “red herring” because in her time in the office, two incumbent DAs have lost re-election bids: Paul Pfingst to Dumanis, in 2002, and Ed Miller to Pfingst in 1994. Miller had held the office for over two decades before being voted out.

Gordon said there’s a key difference. Voters could hold Pfingst and Miller accountable for their years-long records.

“These are situations where you have an extended period to evaluate somebody,” he said. “It’s not a situation where someone comes into office, with the power of incumbency, and they don’t have a sufficient enough record to be evaluated by voters.”

Stephan said she never asked Dumanis to step aside early, and didn’t want her to. She decided to run because her colleagues and people she’s worked with in the community asked her to.

“What choice do I have? If I believe I’m the best candidate to run, do I then just decide, oh I’m not going to put in an application? For a year and a half, the office would be run by a less qualified person. If I’ve already said to the public, I’m the most qualified, it would be inconsistent and unfair to my office to step away from it.”

Stephan already benefits from a high profile in the DA’s office. Earlier this week, prosecutors and law enforcement officials from around the county announced federal charges from a crackdown on gangs in San Diego. Acting U.S. Attorney Alana Robinson took top billing at the press conference, with Stephan right next to her and Dumanis nowhere in sight.

If Gordon or Walden thinks they’d be a better DA than her, Stephan said they should run.

“If they think they’re better for the job, this is what democracy is about,” she said. “Come out and face me.”

    This article relates to: Bonnie Dumanis, Politics, San Diego County Government

    Written by Andrew Keatts

    I'm Andrew Keatts, a reporter for Voice of San Diego. Please contact me if you'd like at andrew.keatts@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.325.0529.

    2 comments
    Joan Lockwood
    Joan Lockwood

    Ms Stephan is strongly aligned with Catholic interests, so if we want to really change homelessness, she will side with Catholic Charities and  Father Joe ( Now St Vincent DePaul)

    Her connections to Ms Dumanis and the current very corrupt model will leave employees like DA Greenberg, who completely betrayed public trust in a robbery case in 2012 by taking a report nor returning calls- when I came down to report in person- Guess who walked out of  DA Special Operations, Det Clark SDPD narcotics officer ( and no he was not a DA yet)  I gave him my complaint (he took no notes and did not have me fill out a complaint form) he misidentified himself and as it turned out the SDPD narcotics division were the one that were responsible for the original robbery!


    Its a very connected and good old boy network and all the boys are very close to billionaires - yes right here in little San Diego.  Lets clear the decks and get someone whose not a play for pay or even has connections to special interests, albeit religious, that will influence decisions.


    Lets get one of these ex DA's who know the inside problems with big money in San Diego and how it corrupts our beautiful city- my birthplace and if special interests believes its OK to character defame and finally, physically, hurt senior  citizens - then international justice should come in and really take a look at dangerous law breaking special interests!  Unfortunately Ms Stepham is not in a position to clean up Bonnie's DA's nor for that  matter Gore's sheriffs who work hand in hand with Bonnie

    Stephen Hon
    Stephen Hon subscribermember

    I listened to the podcast of the engaging interview with Summer Stephan and unless other information comes to light I would be strongly inclined to vote for her. I do have a problem with Dumanis resigning and getting her chosen successor appointed and having the mantle of being the incumbent and the advantages that provides. Comparisons with the Sheriff situation are not the same since Sheriff Kolendar had health issues that precluded his ability to perform. Perhaps even if he had not had health issues he would have resigned early anyway to give his preferred successor, Gore, a leg up but that was not the case. I think Gore is a fine Sheriff and certainly far better than the two opponents he had in his first election. Dumanis is resigning because of her apparent desire to run for the Board of Supervisors. Why she did not resign when she ran for Mayor is a question we will never get an honest answer to.