By David M. Greenwald
San Francisco, CA – When the Vanguard spoke with ousted DA Chesa Boudin last week, he Chesa Boudin told the Vanguard that he is definitely considering running again.
One of the big points he made is that unlike Larry Krasner who was able to defeat an opponent in 2020, Boudin did not get to run “against a traditional tough on crime, police union backed candidate.”
He said, “This was a race where voters were being told that either way they voted on the recall was a vote for criminal justice reform and voters in San Francisco overwhelmingly support criminal justice reform.”
Boudin noted that he earned more votes in 2020 than he did in 2019 when he was elected.
Will that make a difference? When Governor Newsom faced a recall, he started to gain traction by running against the leading replacement for him. But such an option did not exist for Boudin, whose position is expected to be filled this week or next by Mayor London Breed.
Moreover, he noted that Anne Marie Schubert, who ran against Attorney General Rob Bonta, a reformer, “got something like 10 percent of the vote in San Francisco.”
In addition, “There was a candidate who ran for governor attacking me and attacking Governor Newsom and framing himself as anti-homelessness, pro war on drugs, tough on crime, governor candidate, Michael Shellenberger. He got less than 10% of the vote, a lot less.”
He said that “the reality is in San Francisco, criminal justice reform is popular. It’s alive and well, and that’s true across the country because criminal justice reform is necessary to implement policies that make our communities safer.”
Gil Duran, who described himself in a tweet as opposing the recall but not necessarily supporting Boudin, argued in a column this week, “For better or worse, Boudin could win back San Francisco DA’s office.”
Duran writes, “He could win. The recall’s slimmer than expected victory — 55% to 45% — means he could theoretically retake the office in an election where ranked-choice voting ensures a better chance of success.”
“I think Chesa runs in November,” former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown told Josh Koehn of The San Francisco Standard. “Of course, why wouldn’t he? … He got 45% of the (recall) vote. I would run if I’m Chesa.”
Duran argues, “I’m not sure another Boudin for DA campaign is good for anyone. The drama would make for a great story, but would it do anything besides ramp up another cycle of hyperpolarization in our city’s politics?”
He continued, “The campaign against Boudin befouled our civic discourse for months with a constant stream of negativity. While I rejected much of the critique against Boudin, the toxic narrative won over a majority of voters.”
Duran rightly points out that the recall, “funded in part by Republican billionaires, was an abuse of democracy.”
He also pointed out that Mayor London Breed “could push him into the race by making a dumb move when she appoints his replacement.”
Writes Duran, “Many political observers think Breed’s decision to appoint DA candidate Suzy Loftus to the office during the 2019 campaign created a backfire effect that boosted Boudin’s campaign to victory. Best not to make the same mistake twice.”
Duran notes that if Breed were to pick Brooke Jenkins, “it would be his moral duty to run.”
He adds, “The only surefire way for Breed to keep Boudin out of the race would be for her to appoint someone he respects—a progressive prosecutor type who did not play a role in the recall. But it’s not clear that will happen.”
From my perspective, a second Boudin run would have a number of advantages for him.
The first and most obvious, he would have an actual opponent to run against. As I pointed out earlier, that was a huge and probably unfair disadvantage because it forces a concrete candidate with an actual record to run against a hypothetical one that can be idealized.
Second, as the article on the LA DA Recall noted, the data really never supported the contention that Boudin’s policies were to blame for San Francisco’s problems.
“I was blamed for murders that occurred in other jurisdictions. I was blamed for businesses closing that closed before I was even in office and for problems that have been decades-long problems in San Francisco,” he added.
Not to mention, though the situation in San Francisco had gotten worse during the pandemic, not only were there extraordinary circumstances but locations like Sacramento, Alameda, and Kern—led by traditional prosecutors—had larger crime increases.
Two months into Boudin’s tenure the pandemic hit.
Operating under the limitations of COVID and going from 300 jury trials a year to 30, forced them “to make difficult decisions about what cases we have the bandwidth to actually charge.”
Third, Boudin will be out of office and the next administration will have to take on a similar political landscape. It’s possible that Boudin is too demonized in the eyes of the electorate to mount a credible run, but only time will tell.