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GARCETTI REJECTS DEBATES; RIVALS ACCUSE D.A. OF DUCKING ISSUES.

Byline: Greg Gittrich Staff Writer

Los Angeles County District Attorney Gil Garcetti rejected Thursday a challenge from a re-election opponent, prosecutor Steve Cooley, to a series of public debates before the March 7 primary.

Bill Carrick, Garcetti's campaign chief, said the district attorney speaks in public forums almost daily and does not believe debating Cooley or the third candidate, attorney Barry Groveman, would be useful.

``These two guys do nothing but bash Gil, and there's not much useful purpose for us to go to debates to hear them deliver their negative talking points,'' Carrick said.

``Being the punching bag between these two guys as they launch exaggerated and canned attacks doesn't seem to be a very useful way to spend our time.''

Cooley, a head deputy district attorney, said the law enforcement issues facing the county, including the Rampart police scandal, are so serious that Garcetti will eventually have to face them.

``He doesn't want to debate. He knows that we will lay him out,'' Cooley said. ``But he's not just ducking me. He's ducking the issues. He can't hide out forever because the issues are too important.''

Similar sentiments were voiced by Groveman, an environmental attorney, best known for investigating the construction of Los Angeles Unified's Belmont Learning Center.

``Debates are the only intelligent way the public can make a decision on who the next D.A. should be,'' said Groveman, who previously challenged Garcetti to debates.

``Garcetti is concerned about his record. It's very hard to defend a legacy of failure and neglect,'' Groveman said.

``It's arrogant and not becoming to avoid addressing the public on the role you play on their behalf.''

In a letter Thursday to Garcetti, Cooley contended Garcetti has rejected debate invitations from the San Fernando Valley Criminal Courts Bar Association, the Criminal Courts Bar Association and Antelope Valley talk show host Herb Nero. He also argued the district attorney has yet to reply to debate invitations from the Association of Deputy District Attorneys and Warren Olney's radio show ``Which Way L.A.''

``Voters have a right to know whether you are prepared to defend your record in public debates instead of continuing to hide out,'' Cooley wrote.

``I hope that you will respond promptly and in the affirmative to this debate challenge.''

Despite Garcetti's refusal, Cooley and Groveman said they stand ready to meet each other and will work out a schedule for public debates.
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jan 7, 2000
Words:402
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