There’s one candidate in Orange County who’s already won his race.
Nobody filed to run against Assistant District Attorney Tony Ferrentino for a vacant judge position – either on the ballot or as a write-in candidate – and he is guaranteed to win on Tuesday.
Ferrentino apparently was the prosecutor who declined to charge the Santa Ana police union’s president, Sgt. Gerry Serrano, on a DUI hit-and-run arrest in 2011, before he became the union’s leader. District Attorney Todd Spitzer has endorsed Ferrentino, but also has said publicly that the decision to not charge Serrano was a mistake.
While 44 judicial seats at the Orange County Superior Court were up for election this year, no one filed to run against any of the 43 incumbent judges, so they won a new term without races appearing on ballots.
Only one race – for a vacant judge position – is on the the ballot. Ferrentino, who in charge of the DA’s office division at the Harbor courthouse in Newport Beach, was the only person to run, and has racked up endorsements from dozens of judges, prosecutors and public employee labor unions.
Ferrentino did not return phone calls and an email message seeking an interview about his run for judge.
He apparently also was involved in a controversial decision to not prosecute a police officer, in a case the current DA – who has endorsed Ferrentino – has said should have led to charges.
In an interview last year, former DA Tony Rackauckas said he believed Ferrentino made the decision in 2011 to not prosecute Santa Ana police Sgt. Gerry Serrano for DUI hit-and-run, after Westminster police said Serrano failed a field sobriety test and refused to take a blood test. When reached by phone last year, Ferrentino declined to comment about his role in the Serrano case, and he did not return calls for comment in recent weeks.
DA records obtained by Voice of OC contradicted the public reason for why prosecutors did not file charges against Serrano, who now leads the Santa Ana’s influential police officers’ union.
While DA officials had cited the lack of a blood test for why they didn’t prosecute, the DA’s own data showed thousands of charges have been filed against people who refuse blood or breath tests after they’re arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence.
Serrano refused to submit to a blood test after he crashed into another car, slurred his speech, and was arrested for misdemeanor DUI hit-and-run by Westminster police, according to the police reports, which note audio and video evidence.
After reviewing the police reports, the current district attorney, Todd Spitzer, said last year that Serrano should have been charged.
Voters can cast their ballots for Ferrentino or write in a candidate. But since no one filed to run against Ferrentino, including by the Feb. 18 deadline for write-in candidates, he is guaranteed to win the judicial election.
For last last few decades, California state law has required that write-in candidates officially file paperwork by a certain date before the election in order to be eligible to win.
Nick Gerda covers county government for Voice of OC. You can contact him at [email protected].