Reiff: Law Prof Mainero Says He’d Love to be DA but Hates the Politics

Chapman University law professor Mario Mainero wants to be Orange County’s next district attorney, but he’s reluctant to leave his beloved classroom for an uphill battle against two well-known and well-funded politicians.

“I’m not a fool. I’m not going to sit there and go, ‘I think I’ll run for this,’ and watch the other two people have two or three million dollars each,” Mainero said on the “Inside OC with Rick Reiff” public affairs program.

Next year’s DA race is shaping up as a battle royal between two troubled political heavyweights. Incumbent Tony Rackauckas is under siege from a jailhouse snitch scandal that has brought judicial rebukes, case delays and national embarrassment to his office; challenger and OC Supervisor Todd Spitzer is dogged by questions about his judgment and temperament, exemplified in the furor over his 2015 armed confrontation with a “suspicious” man in a Wahoo’s restaurant.

The situation has given rise to “anyone but Tony or Todd” chatter in legal and political circles. Some commentators have welcomed the scholarly Mainero’s announcement that he’s considering a run.

But Mainero, a Republican as are Rackauckas and Spitzer, held out little hope of getting the party’s endorsement:

“Parties just tend to stick with what they got and not take a stand when there’s a problem,” Mainero said. “The Republican Party stood by (former OC Sheriff) Mike Carona until he went to prison, for all intents and purposes. The Republican Party is likely to stick with any incumbent.”

Mainero returned to full-time teaching in 2009 after two-and-a-half often contentious years as then-Supervisor John Moorlach’s chief of staff.

“I am not particularly in love with politics,” Mainero said. “I am in love with policy and with trying to make things better through policy. … That is not going to get done in a mountain of attack pieces from both Mr. Rackauckas and Mr. Spitzer. It just isn’t.”

He criticized Rackauckas as a poor manager who is too cozy with other officeholders and unwilling to prosecute political misdeeds.

He was less harsh toward Spitzer, “who I consider a friend,” and who worked with Mainero on the establishment of the county ethics commission.

But he said Spitzer has done little more than attack Rackauckas without explaining how he’d reform the DA’s office. “That means Todd’s a politician… this is an office that ought not be political at all.”

Mainero criticized both officials for their continued support of the death penalty, calling it fiscally irresponsible. He said the millions of dollars that go into death penalty trials, appeals and death-row housing would be better spent fighting gangs, sex traffickers and identity thieves.

If elected, Mainero said he would take steps to raise ethical standards and reduce politics in the DA’s office. He said he would institute continuing case-law education for attorneys and investigators; report ethics violators to the state bar; leave it to his “professional prosecutors” to hold press conferences and try high-profile cases; and move away from the post-election practice “that has happened in prior times” of demoting or reassigning those who supported a different candidate.

Mainero said if he doesn’t run, he’d like to see someone else step forward, mentioning as one possibility another ethics commission ally, former OC Common Cause President Bill Mitchell.

The Mainero interview recently aired on PBS SoCal, KDOC and Cox. The interview and post-show “Open Mic” segment can be seen on YouTube here and here.

Opinions expressed in editorials belong to the authors and not Voice of OC.

Voice of OC is interested in hearing different perspectives and voices. If you want to weigh in on this issue or others please contact Voice of OC Involvement Editor Theresa Sears at

  • verifiedsane

    Dirty & Sleazy POLITICS ALERT!!!! It appears that Mario Mainero has actually no intention of running for DA after-all…He is actually teaming up with Sleazy Candidate for DA Todd Spitzer to write late to the issue dance editorial op-eds for the OCR

  • OCservant_Leader

    Check “Other” box.

    PD Sanders has earned the right to be DA. He BEAT the DA and his 100’s of Prosecutors. He is a hero. He walks the talk and will bring “justice” back into the OC “Justice” System.

    Judge Goethals probably won’t take the pay cut – but he is also a real “Public Servant”.

    Kick the criminals OUT!

  • LFOldTimer

    I have no doubt that Mario outshines both Spitzer and TR in the moral code department. But then 70% of the inmates at Theo Lacy probably do too. Mario’s problem is that he doesn’t have a lick of experience in the criminal justice system. It would be like hiring an ear, nose and throat surgeon to remove your prostate. Don’t get me wrong. Beggars can’t be choosers. If Mario is the only other attorney who’ll jump into the ring with the 2 worst DA candidates in OC history – I’ll support him. But he won’t win. We need a judge, an honest seasoned prosecutor (does one exist?) or a top-notch defense attorney to enter the race. I would like to see somebody from LA or San Diego announce their candidacy. That would take the political element out of it – like the problem that Karen Schatzle ran into when she challenged incumbent Steiner for the bench seat.

    Good God. Isn’t there anybody with a decent resume in the criminal justice system willing to go toe to toe with these 2 OC embarrassments? Is the electoral system that corrupted?

  • Sergio Garcia

    Kind of Pollyannish to say that the DA shouldn’t be political. He or she is an elected official therefore making it political by definition! This is going to be a choice between two candidates that each has their flaws. I tilt toward Todd (cue the verifiedsane response), but I don’t know many who think that the DA position shouldn’t be an elected position. Do we really trust the Board of Supervisors to appoint?

    • verifiedsane

      Yet, you would trust a current tarnished and egocentric BoS who is of evidenced dubious character! That’s some kindergarten level logic you’re using..nice try Toad Spitter…better try opening another fake account…this one isn’t working: just like all the others…

      • Sergio Garcia

        You’re a zero on the issues so you attack personally. How pathetic.

        • verifiedsane

          Coming from a fake Toad Spitter campaign account, that is absolutely hilarious.

          I need more laughs…please keep posting Toad Spitter candidate for public handcuff maiden and court jester… 🙂

  • verifiedsane

    “anyone but Tony or Todd” is a pretty good start, even without a well funded war chest or the political oligarchy machine behind you….of course as you can see here with Todd Spitzer’s campaign headquarters many dubious commenters accounts…this will without any doubt be one the most dirt filled and mud slinging campaigns ever witnessed for OC DA.

    Even if half of what Mr. Mainero has stated in this editorial is true…he is already light years ahead of both Tony & Todd…I would just guess that he would have an estimated 50% of the vote right out of the starting gate…just keep saying what you have said here..and then follow through on your promises once you’re in office…The election this time around is going to be 99% about character, integrity, honesty, having a strong ethical/moral compass, and finally having good understanding of the law. I for one, would welcome a non-political animal running for a non-political office..

  • Ben Parkin

    Mainero is wrong to think he can step into the race for District Attorney. He has ZERO experience in bringing criminals to trial. It’s worrying that he would attempt to be the county’s top prosecutor. He’s conceited and arrogant.

    • verifiedsane

      Thank you Todd Spitzer’s campaign headquarters. You can now go back to handcuffing & intimidating innocent citizens, and continue your seedy backroom political dealings… 🙂

  • Rosie Lee

    On Friday it will be announced if the death penalty is pulled for our County’s worst mass murderer Scott Dekraai. Tony Rackauckas was kicked-off the case because of systematic and deeply disturbing misconduct. Because of Tony Rackauckas the victims’ relatives of the eight people who died that day have had to endure six long years of trials and suffering. Tony Rackauckas’ campaign for DA is nothing more than a shameless, vain and egotistical plea for vindication.

    • verifiedsane

      Thank you Todd Spitzer’s campaign headquarters for sharing the obvious. You can go back to handcuffing and intimidating innocent citizens, and your seedy backroom political dealings now… 🙂

  • Nicky Pierce

    Spitzer gets my vote! He unapologetically stands up for our safety, our rights and for justice in Orange County. He is the right person to rid our county of T-Rack and his circles of corrupt insiders.

    • verifiedsane

      Thank you Todd Spitzer’s campaign headquarters…try running your hilarious propaganda in some alternative universe where there might be one single uninformed creature that isn’t aware of Todd’s documented dubious character, egocentric persona, and total disregard for the law.

  • RyanCantor

    “The Republican Party stood by (former OC Sheriff) Mike Carona until he went to prison, for all intents and purposes. The Republican Party is likely to stick with any incumbent.”

    ^^^ This. This all day.