Defeated District Attorney Candidate Bears Loss With Equanimity

(June 5) Failed district attorney candidate Grover Merritt on June 4 sounded calm and resigned when queried about his losing effort the previous day.
Merritt postponed vying for the county’s top prosecutor’s job for two election cycles. He was contemplating running for district attorney in 2006 but when the incumbent, Mike Ramos, caught wind of that in 2004, he fired Merritt, who was at that point the head of the office’s appellate unit, alleging he had been leaking confidential office documents to the press. Merritt fought back, filing a lawsuit and seeking the return of his job through the civil service commission.
At his civil service hearing in 2005, it was determined that the documents in question had actually been leaked by assistant district attorney Mike Risley, then Ramos’s closest political associate, and Ramos was forced to rehire Merritt with back pay. Merritt’s lawsuit was settled without going to trial for $297,000.
Ramos subsequently removed Merritt from his position overseeing the appellate union, assigning him to garden variety financial fraud cases.
Merritt, who in recent years has been increasingly critical of Ramos’s management of the prosecutor’s office, declared his candidacy for district attorney last September and promised a campaign that would highlight what he said were his boss’s various and sundry shortcomings. And while Merritt lived up to that promise on the campaign stump, voicing disapproval of the way the office was being run in public appearances promoting his candidacy, he failed to make penetration with the county’s electorate through other means. He did not, for example, carry out a direct mail campaign with high propensity voters, and his sign campaign, which in an innovative twist featured his first rather than his last name, was lackluster at best and did not cover the county’s 20,000 square mile expanse effectively.
When reached by the Sentinel on Wednesday, Merritt was asked if he had spoken with Ramos to congratulate him and offer him an olive branch. “I haven’t talked to him,” Merritt said.
Asked for his post mortem on the election, Merritt said, “The whole campaign was based on a certain assumption, which was that people who disliked Ramos were going to provide independent expenditures to bring out his considerable baggage, and that didn’t happen. No real negative case was made and I got whomped.”
Asked if he would run if he had it to do over again, or if he know saw his candidacy as an exercise in absurdity, Merritt said, “It was an interesting experiment. I met a lot of very nice people. I had a good time, of sorts. I discovered you can’t do a pincer movement if you only have one claw.”
As to his future plans, Merritt said, “I’m not going to do or say anything. I assume I will do identity theft [cases] here in Rancho [Cucamonga] until I die or Mike Ramos leaves office, which theoretically won’t be for another four years.”
Asked if he was concerned about what might be visited upon some of his office colleagues who had supported him in his campaign against their boss, Merritt said, “Retaliation would be an invitation for a civil suit on First Amendment grounds. I don’t see him [Ramos] doing that.”
As to what had been accomplished by his running, Merritt said, “I would like to think we all learned something from this experience and we will be improved by it. I would hope we’ll work from here and move forward.”

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