By David M. Greenwald
San Francisco, CA – For many who supported recalled DA Chesa Boudin, had Mayor London Breed selected someone who could unite the city, they might have gone quietly. But when Breed selected Brooke Jenkins, who was one of the faces of the recall, that changed the dynamics.
He waited until the literal last moment to file, but former Police Commissioner John Hamasaki filed his paperwork on Friday and the next three months figures to be, if nothing else, interesting.
“I think after the recall, everybody was ready to stand down and was hoping that the mayor was going to appoint somebody who was moderate, but reasonable, sensible, ethical—and instead what we’ve got is just the opposite,” he told the Vanguard in a phone interview on Friday afternoon.
He added, “It’s been a nightmare of ethical issues, Brady issues, getting paid by Republicans and not disclosing it issues, and hiring back people with really problematic records, and people who have had the same ethical issues as Ms. Jenkins.”
For Hamasaki the last week or so might have been the straw that brought him into the race.
“I think as a community, people have been looking for somebody to step up and I decided to start looking into it after Friday, when she had appointed Don Dubain because I just felt it was really a slap in the face to everybody in the criminal justice world to bring somebody with his record.”
He added, “Then the story broke about her taking $200,000 for something like six months of work… It just seemed like we can’t survive like this.”
John Hamasaki has over a decade of experience in the courtroom, earning him a reputation as one of the Bay Area’s most tenacious and effective litigators.
“I’m here today because San Francisco needs an independent District Attorney who will hold everyone accountable to the law,” said Hamasaki in a release. “Whether you are a drug dealer selling deadly fentanyl in the Tenderloin, a multi-million corporation exploiting workers and small business owners, or a political machine selling influence in City Hall, I will fight for safety and justice.”
After earning his Juris Doctorate degree from the University of San Francisco School of Law, he opened Hamasaki Law, a top-rated criminal defense law firm that represents individuals in the criminal justice system.
Hamasaki also served as a San Francisco Police Commissioner from 2018 to 2022, where he was the lead commissioner on the Domestic Violence Working Group, which modernized the guidelines for the San Francisco Police Department’s interactions with domestic violence victims. He was one of the attorneys for the family of Cecilia Lam, who was killed by her ex-boyfriend despite calling SFPD five times in 2014.
Hamasaki is a fourth-generation Japanese American and has lived with his family in North Beach for nearly three decades. If elected, Hamasaki would be San Francisco’s first Japanese American District Attorney.
Hamasaki has been an active part of the Bay Area legal community, serving as President of the Asian American Bar Association in 2020 and on the Board of Governors for California Attorneys for Criminal Justice. He has done extensive pro bono legal work through the National Lawyers Guild.
Anyone who has followed Hamasaki on Twitter for any length of time knows this will not be a dull campaign.
Hamasaki is concerned with the influence of the mayor on her appointee.
“I’ve heard that basically the mayor is running the office, including putting one of her top people in as a new hire to be one of Brooke’s top people,” he said. “This all goes back to the mayor’s tough-on-crime, make life hell speech for December, when she made it clear that her police was kind of to open war on people in poverty, people who are unhoused, people who are struggling with substance abuse and other disorders.”
What will John Hamasaki’s campaign look like?
“John Hamasaki campaign looks like a campaign by the regular people of San Francisco,” he said. “It’s not Chesa Boudin’s campaign.”
He pointed out they did the filing and had 40 people there supporting him, “really dedicated social justice driven people.”
In a campaign release, Hamasaki listed his priorities:
- Protecting the San Francisco community while ensuring that justice is served in every case—from car break-ins to wage theft to violent crimes.
- Restoring integrity and trust to the District Attorney’s Office through independent leadership, transparency, and data analysis of criminal case outcomes.
- Protecting vulnerable victims, including Asian elders and domestic violence victims.
- Investing in culturally competent victim services including language access and wrap around services.
- Partnering with local and federal agencies to investigate and prosecute corruption in City Hall.
This week Brooke Jenkins announced some of her early supporters, not surprisingly including Mayor London Breed, and three Supervisors—Matt Dorsey, Rafael Mandelman and Ahsha Safai, plus State Senator Scott Wiener and Treasurer Fiona Ma.
John Hamasaki is endorsed by former State Senator Mark Leno, former State Assemblymember Tom Ammiano, former President of the Board of Supervisors Norman Yee, former President of the Board of Supervisors Matt Gonzalez, Supervisor Dean Preston, former Supervisor Sandra Lee Fewer, former Supervisor John Avalos, former Police Commissioner Angela Chan, and former Police Commissioner Petra DeJesus among others.
“San Francisco deserves a District Attorney who is going to fight to keep us all safe, not just the super rich and powerful in our city,” said former Police Commissioner Petra de Jesus, “I’m very excited to support John Hamasaki’s campaign.”
“Hamasaki’s years of experience and unshakeable integrity uniquely qualify him for the role as District Attorney,” said former Board of Supervisors President Norman Yee. “It’s time for San Franciscans to have true representation in our criminal justice system.”
For Hamasaki, “Brooke was very much a part of the recall, I think everybody wants to put that behind us. It’s a reminder of the power of right wing Republicans to undermine lawful democracy.”
He noted, “Brooke’s not really a known figure until this, but I’m a pretty known figure in San Francisco.” He said that the media is probably more excited than anyone, because they are “hoping for the next three months to be a knock down, drag it out battle for the spot.”