Instead, in one embarrassing revelation after another, Carr has come up short.
Not all of the DA office's controversies of the last few years are Carr's fault. But when deputies are accused of prosecutorial misconduct for withholding evidence from defense attorneys, as occurred in domestic abuse and other cases, ultimate accountability rests with the boss.
More importantly, Carr's lapses in her own judgment and her self-acknowledged communication shortcomings combine to create an organization that is divided, politicized and unhealthy. Her critics share responsibility for that, but the conflict may be irreparable.
To her credit, she owns up to much of the criticism and says her 2006 commitment to reform the culture in the DA's office is still "a work in progress."
She acknowledges she poorly explained her decision not to prosecute several De Anza College baseball players for sexual assault in a case that received extensive publicity.
She says in hindsight she should have been more alert to the conflict created when her husband, a retired San Jose police lieutenant, became a consultant to the family of a murder victim in a case her office would end up prosecuting.
And she defends her action to blackball Superior Court judge Andrea Bryan, a former prosecutor, ordering her deputies to refuse to appear before Bryan due to what Carr believed were unwarranted criticisms of her office.
In short, it has been turbulent first term for Carr, and despite her many positive qualities, we believe she will not be able to overcome the controversies of the last few years.
Many others, including the Santa Clara County Bar Association and former DA George Kennedy, agree — Kennedy in fact has publicly endorsed Rosen. By a wide margin, the Bar Association voted to reverse its prior support of Carr and endorsed her sole opponent, Jeff Rosen. Carr was even deemed "not qualified" by more Bar members than found her "qualified."
For her part, Carr has picked up the support of must, but not all, police unions. Rosen has been endorsed by the sheriff's deputies association.
Rosen, 42, has spent all but two years of his 15-year career as an attorney in the DA's office, trying some of the more complex homicide and other cases.
He harshly criticizes his boss's ethical and management shortcomings and points to the number of attorneys in the office who have publicly endorsed him — more than have endorsed Carr — as a sign of the discontent in the office.
Among Rosen's goals is to bring back the Cold Case Unit, open the flow of information about officer-involved shootings (but not open grand-jury proceedings), and implement small case loads for all supervisors so they are not so insulated from the courtroom.
Rosen's major shortcoming is that he lacks the management and leadership experience one would want to see in someone seeking to run a large county bureaucracy as critical as the District Attorney's office. Although he has had to manage complex cases with large numbers of witnesses, he has never been a supervisor in the office responsible for managing employees, creating budgets and dealing with other law-enforcement leaders throughout the county.
Rosen counters that as president of Temple Kol Emeth of Palo Alto he administered a large budget and oversaw staff. But this hardly compares to trying to lead and manage through the intense politics of a 500-person organization within a county bureaucracy that must make significant budget cuts.
Rosen is a passionate, well-respected prosecutor with a first-hand view of the management challenges Dolores Carr has faced in her first term as DA. He is less qualified than we would prefer for this important position, but we believe there have simply been too many missteps by Carr to put our faith in her ability to turn things around in a second term.
We recommend Jeff Rosen for Santa Clara County District Attorney.