By David M. Greenwald
For the second time in a row, Jeff Reisig, first elected in 2006, will face a challenger. In 2018, he faced Dean Johansson and won by just over 2000 votes in a surprisingly close race.
Reisig at the time attempted to claim the mantle of reformer. He was aided by local media.
The Enterprise, in endorsing him at the time, in May of 2018 wrote: “Despite efforts by those opposed to him to portray him as something that he is not, Reisig is, in fact, one of the most progressive district attorneys in the state.”
Granted this was prior to the election of people like Chesa Boudin, the appointment of Diana Becton in Contra Costa, the move of George Gascón from San Francisco to Los Angeles. But still, even at the time, the actual record of Jeff Reisig was far from progressive.
In recent months, Jeff Reisig has been trying to position himself as a middle ground choice.
Again, he has been aided by regional papers like the Sacramento Bee which said, “Yolo County DA addressing racial bias; Sacramento regional should, too.” While acknowledging his snafu last year attacking the Yolo County Public Defender, the Bee said, “It’s clear that he wants to be more proactive and address these realities head-on.”
But despite the rhetoric, not much has changed.
There was an interesting moment Friday at the Vanguard Webinar with Assemblymember Kevin McCarty, where he made an interesting comment, this time lambasting Sacramento DA Anne Marie Schubert, who is going to be running against McCarty’s former colleague Rob Bonta for AG. He called her “horrible” but then said that Jeff Reisig is not Chesa Boudin (the SF DA), but he’s not Schubert either.
This could have been a line out of the DA’s reelection campaign.
In a campaign communication from Reisig following Cynthia Rodriguez’s announcement of her candidacy, he wrote urging people to look at the full record and said, “My balanced approach as the District Attorney is focused on the fair enforcement of the laws, combined with the thoughtful development and implementation of new programs and reforms designed to improve the local justice system, reduce mass-incarceration, engage our diverse citizenry and strengthen the quality of life in all of our communities.”
It is good rhetoric and if the media—and even people with pretty strong reform records like McCarty—buy in, it could be successful. The Bee certainly bought in two weeks ago following his transparency announcement and exhorted Schubert to be more like him.
No one seems to recognize, however, that, rhetoric aside, there is no difference between Reisig and Schubert. In fact, both DAs opposed things like the death penalty elimination, Prop. 47 and Prop. 57, and they were each one of just four DAs to oppose Prop. 64.
Reisig would probably note that he took no position on Prop. 20 while Schubert supported it.
But, then again, he has each month put out an attack on zero bail. His office actively opposed and even filed a writ against SB 1437 (felony murder reform), and of course he brutally attacked Public Defender Tracie Olson last year when she dared to cite jail statistics showing a huge disparity between the Black jail population and overall Black population in Yolo County, believing she was suggesting that his office may be responsible for this disparity.
When you scratch off the rhetoric of moderation, you don’t see a lot of opposition to change and you see a drastic misalignment with Yolo County voters.
“I feel like the current DA has been there quite awhile and had lots of opportunities to show us how he’s going to handle all of the issues that are present,” Cynthia Rodriguez said. “I don’t feel like he’s in any way clearly addressed them.
“He has gone against what people have said when they have voted for propositions, he has continued even after their passage to fight against them and scold us for voting as we have voted in Yolo County,” she said. “I think it’s time that Yolo County is heard.
“I think to me that’s the major issue with this particular district attorney,” she said. “He continues to approach the DA’s work from an old school, 50-year-old DA process, that has never been successful before in making communities successful and more secure.”
One area where the DA has so far escaped scrutiny has been his association with the CDAA (California District Attorneys Association), where he is in line to be president.
Reisig has not publicly addressed the $2.9 million that was misused by the CDAA. But current President Vern Pierson, the El Dorado County DA, “blamed the issue on former employees and accountants who did not flag the spending issues when they should have.
“I mean, I was shocked when I heard about it,” Pierson said in reference to the misspent funds. “Nobody is more upset than we are to have found out that people who worked for us accounted for money in a way they should not have.”
Reisig has said nothing.
When Anne Marie Schubert announced this week she was running for AG, Prosecutor Alliance Director Cristine Soto Deberry pointed out, “But it’s her role as secretary-treasurer of [the California District Attorneys Association] that’s bound to raise some eyebrows… She had oversight responsibility over the admitted misappropriation of millions of dollars set aside for environmental crimes and asset forfeiture which has prompted a DOJ investigation, and if elected she’d have oversight over the investigation into her own wrongdoing.”
Shouldn’t Reisig as well?
In the meantime, Reisig, in the wake of his close call in 2018 has attempted to double down on a path as a moderate reformer. But he continues to attack things like SB 1437 and zero bail, and has never apologized for his treatment of the public defender, even as he attempts to launch transparency projects.
Will the voters buy it? Stay tuned.
—David M. Greenwald reporting
To sign up for our new newsletter – Everyday Injustice – https://tinyurl.com/yyultcf9
Support our work – to become a sustaining at $5 – $10- $25 per month hit the link: