Gascón Endorsed by the LA Times Last Week

George Gascón in October

By David M. Greenwald
Executive Editor

Los Angeles, CA – Los Angeles County DA George Gascón has faced down recalls and now faces a tough challenge for reelection.  But he has received some positive news recently, with improving crime trends and, last week, with the endorsement from the Los Angeles Times.

“Voters wanted Gascón to set a corrective course in the nation’s largest local jurisdiction while keeping people safe,” the Times writes.  “He is doing what he promised, and doing it well, despite intense and dishonest backlash from opponents inside his office and among right-wing politicians and pundits across the nation.”

They add, “L.A. County voters would be wise to reject the nonsense and keep Gascón on the job and criminal justice reform in place.”

In response, Ryan Erlich of the Association of Deputy DA’s, responded, “Their editorial was not what one would call a ‘positive’ or evidence-based endorsement. They didn’t argue that Gascón has ‘earned’ a second four-year term.”

Erlich continued, “They didn’t point to any new proposals. They didn’t lean into statistics. There was no tally of exonerations. No list of successful prosecutions. No citation to a declining crime rate. No mention of cases filed against law enforcement officers. They didn’t even discuss his second-term agenda; in fact, it’s not clear that one exists.”

He argued, “Instead, they clung to a false premise: that failing to keep George Gascón in office will mean the end of criminal justice reform in Los Angeles. They’re wrong. But they’re not alone.”

But this week, the LA Times reported, “In the latest sign that violent crime in Los Angeles is receding from a surge during the COVID-19 pandemic, LAPD officials on Wednesday released statistics showing double-digit percentage declines in both homicides and nonfatal shootings in 2023.”

The news isn’t all good.  While violent crime dropped 3 percent compared to 2022, and killing and shootings were down 17% and 10%, respectively, “property crime rose about 3 percent over the same period, driven by a rise in auto theft.”

The Times largely focused on criminal justice reform, noting Gascón’s background both as a police chief and a DA in San Francisco.

“This background gives him firsthand knowledge of the criminal justice system from the ground level,” they argue.

They added, “L.A. voters picked him because he correctly saw the self-defeating nature of a system that does not know when to stop punishing.”

They continue, “Gascón’s policies seek the most fitting rather than the longest possible sentences. This smart approach was such a departure from older, failed strategies that the MAGA right promptly distorted it into the false narrative that Gascón refuses to prosecute misdemeanors at all, and generally avoids prosecuting felonies.”

They noted, “This fairy tale is so entrenched that several of his challengers repeated it on the campaign trail — and one of them, former Assistant U.S. Atty. Nathan Hochman, told it to the Times editorial board. When asked to show evidence, he couldn’t — because there is no such policy.”

They point out that in most of the cities in the county—including Los Angeles itself—the prosecution of misdemeanors lies with the city attorney, not the DA’s office.

And on felonies, “the number of cases filed during his tenure is on par with that of earlier administrations. The argument that Gascón is lax or lenient on crime simply does not hold up to the facts.”

Further, they note, “The various crime surges in the last few years — wrongly attributed to Gascón — occurred nationwide and have largely abated. Prosecutorial policies have no short-term effect on crime.”

The Times adds, “Seven of Gascón 11 challengers in the March primary are current or former L.A. deputy district attorneys who adamantly oppose the office’s direction and the voters’ 2020 decision. They promise to bring back archaic and unjust sentencing policies, and most want to roll back key provisions of the voter-approved Proposition 47, which among other things made drug possession a misdemeanor.”

Erlich disagreed that the challengers are looking to turn back the time of reform.

Instead, he argued,  “Voters are looking for real solutions. They don’t like what’s going on and they don’t feel safe. Substantially more of them disapprove of Gascón’s job performance than approve of it. But they don’t want to ‘go back’ to the way things were before. They support reform and they want to move forward, beyond Gascón, in a different direction.”

The Times concludes, “Gascón is the right D.A. in the right place at the right time. Voters were right to pick him in 2020. They ought to keep him in place for another term.”

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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