Former Marine Corps Judge Advocate, Assistant U.S. Attorney, and OC Deputy District Attorney Enter Race to be Orange County’s Next Top Prosecutor

Pete Hardin launches campaign to restore leadership, integrity and professionalism to an office facing a “sea of scandals”

ORANGE, CA – Today, Frm. Marine Corps Judge Advocate Pete Hardin was joined by survivors of crime and harassment, children’s advocates, community organizers and justice reformers as he launched his campaign for Orange County District Attorney. He announced his campaign in front of Orange County’s juvenile hall. Hardin’s campaign is centered around implementing modern criminal justice policies that will enhance safety and restore victims while reducing our costly overreliance on incarceration.

“I have spent my life fighting for the vulnerable, and I’m entering this race because the District Attorney has demonstrated he is incapable of fighting for anyone but himself and his friends,” said Hardin. “The next guardian of Orange County’s criminal justice system must be a leader with the integrity and professionalism that this community deserves. The fraternity like atmosphere in which Todd Spitzer operates is unbefitting of the office he holds. His dated approach to criminal justice is exacerbating homelessness, threatening our quality of life, and leaving victims to fend for themselves. Our criminal justice system has been a stain on the jewel that is Orange County, and I will work tirelessly to earn the support of this incredible community, and to make the change that the people demand and deserve.”

Raised by a schoolteacher and a District Court Judge, Hardin embarked on his own career in public service in 2005 after earning his commission as a Second Lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps. A combat veteran, Hardin served in Helmand Province, Afghanistan in 2011 and 2012. After leaving active duty, Hardin excelled as a Deputy District Attorney in Orange County before becoming a federal prosecutor. Having served as a prosecutor at every level of the criminal justice system, Hardin prosecuted cases involving financial and government fraud, mail and wire fraud, drug trafficking, firearms offenses, and violent crimes. Hardin has also worked at two of the nation’s premier boutique law firms before starting his own law practice.

During his launch Hardin announced major policy shifts if elected, including banning the death penalty due to the collateral consequences for victims in a state with a moratorium, working to end cash bail in light of the reality that it enables wealthy dangerous persons to buy their freedom, and ending the prosecution of children as adults as teenagers make risky decisions with science showing kids’ brains don’t fully develop until the mid to late 20s. Hardin also committed to root out and prosecute public corruption, investigate and prosecute environmental crimes, and expand victims’ services regardless of case outcomes.

Recognizing that incarceration often fails to tackle underlying drivers of crime and often exacerbates reoffense rates and homelessness, Hardin would prioritize the use of alternatives to incarceration like drug treatment programs and mental health counseling when appropriate and where offenders pose no risk to public safety.

Hardin’s campaign launch comes during a period when the Orange County District Attorney’s office has been rocked by scandals including allegations of sexual harassment, nepotism, and survivors of crime who have been defamed, bullied, and ignored by a DA that champions victims during politically convenient moments.

“I know how difficult it can be when someone like Todd Spitzer pretends to care about victims of crime while campaigning for office, only to turn their back once elected,” said Paul Wilson, whose wife Christy Wilson was among eight people killed in the 2011 Seal Beach Massacre. “He did that with me. I learned the hard way. For years, he made promises about protecting victims’ rights and prosecutorial accountability, which he broke as soon as he got into office. Todd Spitzer always thinks first and foremost about what will benefit him, and now he’s trying to fix his image after making a mess of his first two years as District Attorney. Case in point is his espousing a message of reform and survivor support, while his actions directly contradict his rhetoric. Todd does not put victims first. Todd does not put the community first. Todd puts Todd first.”

Wilson’s experience is further validated by DA Spitzer’s commitment to policies that perpetuate injustices while masquerading as an advocate for reform. Just last month, the Los Angeles Times Editorial Board described Spitzer as a politician that “built his career on ‘tough-on-crime’ rhetoric, including disparaging and even fear-mongering remarks.”

“Working for Todd Spitzer, I personally was harassed, discriminated against, and faced retaliation,” said Christine Richters, who served as then-Supervisor Spitzer’s Executive Aide from 2013 to 2016. “Todd leads by way of fear and aggression. Today, I am standing up not only for myself, but in solidarity with the numerous victims of sexual harassment who have been ignored and belittled by Todd and his staff. It’s shameful and deeply ironic that a politician standing at the helm of our justice system is personally responsible for so many injustices.”

“I am so proud to announce UNITE-HERE Local 11 is endorsing Pete Hardin to serve as the next Orange County District Attorney,” said Ada Briceño, Co-President of UNITE-HERE Local 11. “Our union represents more than 30,000 hospitality workers, many of whom are women of color, and many who have faced sexual harassment, discrimination, and labor law violations. I am deeply concerned that a culture of sexual harassment that has been enabled to fester and thrive in an office that is supposed to stand up for justice and the most vulnerable. You can’t be a leader in Orange County if you can’t be a leader in your own office. Pete Hardin has proven his commitment to prioritizing this community’s long term health and safety, and I am confident he will seek justice with integrity, transparency, and equity.”

“Our leaders have an obligation to preserve opportunity and hope for future generations,” said Scott Budnick, Founder of the Anti Recidivism Coalition. “But the dated approach employed by this office has foreclosed opportunity and hope for many, and it has created more victims of crime. Orange County needs a DA that is willing to implement modern solutions that are proven to break the cycle of crime and victimization.”

The primary is June 7, 2022. In the event there are more than two candidates and no one secures more than 50 percent of the vote, the top two candidates will advance to a November runoff.