By David M. Greenwald
San Francisco, CA – In a lot of ways, the focus on Chesa Boudin and a number of other losses dominates the immediate aftermath of Tuesday. However, one gets more hopeful if one views this in the context of the long game.
“This movement is in its infancy, but it’s growing, as across the state and country more reform-minded DAs ran this year than ever before,” said Founder and Executive Director of the Prosecutors Alliance, Cristine Soto DeBerry.
She said, “While San Francisco lost a champion, the flag-bearer for the state’s tough-on-crime movement didn’t even advance to the general election–with Californians overwhelmingly electing a reform-minded Attorney General.”
This is similar to the sentiment expressed by Max Szabo on Tuesday night when he called it “a mixed bag,” noting that “on the one hand, California nominated a reformer Rob Bonta and firmly rejected Anne Marie Schubert, who didn’t even make the run off.”
For the bigger picture, “Four years ago there weren’t reformers challenging incumbents or running in this many counties across the state of California.”
He said, “Kicking over the status quo is not something that will happen overnight. In spite of the losses, the fact that there are more reformers running and more reformers winning than there were just four years ago gives me hope.”
This was a message carried forward by DeBerry who heads the Prosecutor’s Alliance, formed as a counter balance to the CDAA.
“Where reform-minded prosecutors lost they were heavily outspent by special interests and law enforcement unions seeking to purchase a blind eye towards officer misconduct,” DeBerry said. “DA Chesa Boudin made progress for San Francisco, but his efforts to enhance safety and justice were cut short by conservative mega donors and a campaign that peddled fear and misinformation.”
She noted, “With overall crime and homelessness having fallen since DA Boudin assumed office, the success of Prop H demonstrates the danger of well-funded recall and misinformation campaigns—a new staple of America’s conservative movement—rather than objective implications for safety caused by reform or reformers.”
Now it is a matter of trying to carry forward momentum at a time when the opponents of reform smell blood.
In Los Angeles, opponents of George Gascón are licking their chops.
Eric Siddall, of the Association of Deputy District Attorneys, put out a statement, “Last night, San Franciscans had the last word on George Gascón’s failed legacy as San Francisco’s District Attorney. Over the next few weeks, Angelenos will take the first steps to bring his failed term as Los Angeles’ chief prosecutor to a necessarily early end.”
He argued, “Chesa Boudin wasn’t recalled because he was a reformer; he was recalled because San Francisco voters rejected his defendant-centered approach to criminal justice reform. The same approach that his predecessor, George Gascón, has forced upon Los Angeles.”
Just as in San Francisco, the LA pushback has given lip service to reform—recognizing that the public still favors it, instead they have focused on the personal dislike of Boudin in San Francisco and now Gascón in Los Angeles.
Siddu pointed out, “More than 500,000 Los Angeles County residents have already signed petitions to recall Gascón. Approximately 98% of his own deputies voted to support that grassroots effort. And thirty-four cities have voted to express their lack of confidence in Gascón and his leadership abilities. They all agree that we need to reform our criminal justice system. They desperately want a District Attorney who will do the job, protect the public, and follow the law.”
Meanwhile DeBerry emphasized, “The modern approach taken by reform-minded prosecutors will continue to gain traction because it is demonstrably safer, as reform reduces recidivism, produces fewer victims in the long term, is significantly less expensive for taxpayers, and leads to fewer racial disparities.”
She added, “To achieve those aims tomorrow, the Prosecutors Alliance remains steadfast in its support of prosecutors, victim advocates and candidates for office committed to smart, safe, and modern solutions that advance not just public safety, but human dignity and community well-being.”