San Diego

Candidate for Interim D.A. Job Stirs Dumanis Succession Process

The process of replacing Bonnie Dumanis as district attorney has just gotten more intriguing.

Will her chief deputy, Summer Stephan, be appointed to serve as interim D.A. until next year's election, when that title on the ballot would seem to be a big advantage?

With that prospect looming, former deputy prosecutor Adam Gordon wants county supervisors to make him interim D.A. – and has pledged not to run for the top office.

Stephan, the only candidate so far in the 2018 race, hasn’t decided whether to apply for the interim job.

Gordon has been in private law practice since 2014, after five years in the D.A's office.

On Tuesday he urged the Board of Supervisors to ask other applicants for interim D.A. to forswear running for the office next year.

Stephan is highly regarded, and not only has the backing of Dumanis -- who's retiring July 7th, eight months early -- but endorsements from several leading law enforcement organizations.

Still, the prospect of Stephan becoming interim D.A., in the way Bill Gore was appointed interim sheriff before being elected, strikes critics as a "coronation" process.

Supervisors have scheduled two hearings in late June to reach a choice for interim district attorney.

Gordon says an appointee who's not running won't have the distractions of campaigning get in the way of prosecuting.

"Without having an incumbent in the race, which is what we're hopefully going to have in this situation,” he told NBC 7, “the community will have a much better opportunity -- and hopefully the opportunity they haven't had in nearly a half-century -- to fully vet all of the issues before the public."

Supervisors also are being lobbied by the American Civil Liberties Union and nine other community groups that took out a full-page ad in the San Diego Union-Tribune, arguing against appointing someone who'll run next year.

As for the advantage of “incumbency” by whatever means, in 2002 Dumanis beat Paul Pfingst, a two-term district attorney, to become D-A herself.

In 1994 Pfingst unseated Ed Miller, a six-term incumbent and former U.S. Attorney.

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