Disgruntled voters in San Francisco and Los Angeles are seeking to recall their left-wing district attorneys, with the effort in San Francisco full of energy and momentum while the Los Angeles movement is trying to regain its footing.
In both cases, residents have seen crime rates soar during the tenure of a district attorney who has promoted the pursuit of “restorative justice” rather than more traditional law and order and who ran a campaign bankrolled largely by PAC money seeded by liberal billionaire George Soros.
San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin and Los Angeles DA George Gascón say the recall efforts are political theater, funded and controlled by their opponents or conservative groups that fear their new approach.
But the group that has won a June 7 recall election of Mr. Boudin includes members of the city’s LGBTQ community, Democratic Party activists, small business owners and others, according to its website, SaferSFWithoutBoudin.com. The group’s petition drive garnered more than 83,000 signatures, which were certified Nov. 9.
The group, known as San Franciscans for Public Safety, declined to discuss its work with The Washington Times. But its public statements have denounced Mr. Boudin’s track record as having made San Francisco a dangerous environment for residents, businesses and tourists.
“Under Boudin, elected November 2019, our city’s criminal justice system has instead been upended,” the group says on its website. “Criminals are emboldened due to lack of accountability; those perpetrators arrested are simply let go, commit more crimes, and unfortunately, many are deadly. Our beloved city has seen an astronomical increase in violent crime, home invasions, shops looted, car-jackings, rampant and unchecked drug dealing and business property theft, even under COVID-19 restrictions.”
The motivating factor for the recall was two deaths on New Year’s Eve “committed by a paroled felon on Chesa Boudin’s watch,” the group said.
In 2020, more than 450 people were killed in the San Francisco Bay Area, a 25% increase over the previous year, according to the California Department of Justice.
San Francisco and its environs are in the midst of surging violence, according to city officials. In July, the midyear 2021 total of homicides was 26, an 18% increase over the first six months of 2020, which also registered an increase over the previous year.
In addition, businesses in San Francisco have cited rising theft as the reason for closing stores, although Mr. Boudin’s supporters dispute that cause.
Mr. Boudin, like other big-city prosecutors whose campaigns were bankrolled by Mr. Soros’ PACs, argues that a racist legal system has meted out overly harsh justice predominantly to people of color for years. He opposes the death penalty and has pursued lesser charges and incarceration for many felons.
The first attempt to recall Mr. Boudin began in March, started by the Committee Supporting the Recall of District Attorney Chesa Boudin. It was led by former Republican politician Richie Greenberg.
That effort fell short of the 51,000 signatures it needed, and the leaders of the second, successful effort are what San Francisco newspapers describe as “Democratic activists.” They exceeded the signature requirement, obtaining more than 83,000 to win certification and trigger next year’s recall election.
The Boudin team sees similarities between both recall petitions.
“After spending $1.4 million and using shady and misleading tactics, it’s no surprise that this radical recall has bought its way onto the ballot,” said Julie Edwards, a spokesperson for the Friends of Chesa Boudin Opposing the Recall.
“We saw the exact same thing happen with Gov. [Gavin] Newsom’s recall,” Ms. Edwards said. “We are confident San Francisco voters will reject this Republican-funded and endorsed effort as well. The recall is an attempt to reverse the reforms DA Boudin has enacted to keep us safe and make the criminal justice system fairer. But this will not stop him from continuing to work for all San Franciscans.”
In Los Angeles, voters started a recall drive with the backing of several crime victims’ families last summer, touting a poll that showed 61.4% of residents would prefer a top prosecutor other than Mr. Gascón.
But that push began without a clear strategic plan and ran out of money, according to Tim Lineberger, a spokesman for Recall George Gascón.
“We had a couple of big checks come in early, and some crime victims were just so mad that we went without any stockpiled resources,” Mr. Lineberger said.
A key factor in comparing the success of the Boudin recall drive with the misfire of the Gascón effort is the difference in size of the cities. With nearly 4 million residents, Los Angeles is more than four times bigger than San Francisco, thereby requiring nearly 10 times as many certified petition signatures — 580,000 versus 51,000.
Mr. Gascón said crime was rising at alarming rates months before he took office and against a backdrop of harsher penalties. There were 179 homicides in Los Angeles in the first six months of 2021, the highest midyear total in more than a decade.
Mr. Gascón’s political team said it would not comment unless a recall petition is refiled, but the district attorney defended his work in August.
“From beat cop to top prosecutor, I have reduced violent crime in every leadership position I have held,” Mr. Gascón told The Washington Times. “Critics of these important reforms are not advocating for more safety; they are advocating for more punishment.”
The Gascón recall group has decided to reorganize and seek a recall petition once it has designed a complete strategy and has secured at least $2.5 million in financing, about half of which has been collected, Mr. Lineberger told The Times.
“I don’t think Mr. Gascón has gotten more popular since June,” he said, adding that the redo on the recall effort should be underway early next year, well before Mr. Boudin’s recall election will be held in June.
However, the Democratic supermajority in Sacramento may move to protect incumbents from recall drives. In the aftermath of Mr. Newsom’s recall election victory in September, some party leaders in the legislature have called for new laws that would make it more difficult to trigger a recall in California.
• James Varney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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