California attorney general race highlights debate over abortion

California Atty. General Rob Bonta has spent the last year and a half working on the same progressive issues he supported during his tenure in the California Assembly.

Bonta, a Democrat, has created a new gun violence prevention bureau and established a regional program to apprehend traffickers and sex offenders.

He has declared an “epidemic of hatred” against communities of color and other vulnerable groups, and deployed a “housing strike force” to pressure local governments into obeying state laws.

More recently, Bonta took control of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department criminal investigation into Supervisor Sheila Kuehl and others. He also said his office will investigate the Los Angeles redistribution process after The Times published a recording of a racist conversation between city leaders trying to bolster Latino political power.

Nathan Hochman, a Republican defense attorney and former federal prosecutor who is running to impeach Bonta in the Nov. 8 election, doesn’t think that’s enough and says he would do things differently.

Bonta, the first Filipino American to serve as the state’s top law enforcement official, was appointed by Gov. Gavin Newsom last March after Xavier Becerra resigned to become US Secretary of Health and Human Services.

The post of Attorney General, often a stepping stone to higher office, has grown in importance following two US Supreme Court decisions that revoked abortion rights and declared restrictive gun control policies unconstitutional.

The attorney general supports local criminal investigations and coordinates statewide narcotics enforcement, assists in prosecuting hate crimes, operates regional forensic crime labs, and assists the state in meeting its climate and housing goals.

But Hochman pointed to Bonta’s relatives Lack of law enforcement experience and left-leaning legislation as evidence that the Justice Department needs leadership that takes a tougher stance on crime. He said Bonta contributed to a “spiral of lawlessness.”

As assistant attorney general, Hochman led the Department of Justice’s tax division in prosecuting “tax evaders” like Wesley Snipes.

In the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California, he prosecuted more than 180 counts of corruption and fraud, according to his Department of Justice biography.

After the 1994 Northridge earthquake, Hochman formed the Los Angeles Disaster Fraud Task Force, which prosecuted more than 70 people for fraud in aid programs. Hochman also served on the LA City Ethics Committee.

As defense attorney, Hochman has represented clients including former Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca, who was convicted of obstructing a civil rights investigation in the county jails and lying to federal investigators.

Bonta was an assistant city attorney in San Francisco and vice mayor of the city of Alameda before being elected to the state assembly 2012. During his tenure As a representative of the Alameda area, Bonta gained a reputation for progressive will to drive measures to strengthen tenant rights and reform the criminal justice system.

He worked on legislation to phase out private prisons and detention centers in California and to abolish bail. He helped pass a bill in 2019 to cap rent increases and limit when a landlord can evict tenants, and backed another in 2020 that would require the attorney general to investigate fatal police shootings of unarmed civilians.

Bonta said he is “strong, effective and smart on crime” and that public safety is “priority and job number one, two and three.” He said he could work to make the criminal justice system fairer without endangering public safety.

Crime concerns made the June 7 attorney general primary one of the most competitive of the spring. Hochman ranked second with 18.2% of the votes cast, ahead of another Republican and high-profile independent prosecutor, compared to Bonta’s 54.3%.

But it’s not just crime that’s driving voters to the polls this year.

More than 80% of California voters identified abortion as a top concern in an August survey by UC Berkeley’s Institute for Government Studies. Two-thirds said they disapproved of the US Supreme Court’s June decision to drop the landmark Roe vs. Wade abortion rights case.

The Attorney General is tasked with defending California’s laws in court, and Newsom recently signed a series of new laws into law that strengthen access to abortion. Voters will also soon decide Proposition 1, a proposed amendment to the California Constitution that would specifically protect abortion rights.

Hochman said he was “pro-choice” and would “fully enforce all laws on the books protecting a woman’s reproductive rights.”

Bonta called for a determined defense of reproductive freedoms.

When it comes to abortion access, Bonta said the attorney general has to be “loud, strong, full-throated, standing, not sitting, front, not back.”

Hochman said he will also enforce California’s gun control policy – said to be one of the strongest in the country – but added that some are violating another recent Supreme Court decision on restrictive concealed carry laws.

Hochman said Bonta “failed miserably” to be more aggressive in confiscating guns from those prohibited from possessing them, and that he should have done more to help pass legislation introduced in response to the Supreme Court case .

Senate Bill 918, which Bonta helped draft, died at the end of this year’s term amid infighting among Democrats and a lack of support from the faction’s moderate wing. It would have followed strict rules to get a concealed carry permit in California.

“I will take the guns out of the hands of criminals while respecting the rights of law-abiding citizens to own and own guns under California law,” Hochman said.

Bonta acknowledged that supporters of the bill “missed an opportunity to do something important” but vowed to pass a similar measure in the new year.

“This fight is not over,” Bonta said, adding that as attorney general, he made gun violence prevention a top priority. He sponsored legislation that year to establish a “firearms industry standard of conduct” that would allow local governments, the state Department of Justice and survivors of gun violence to sue for egregious violations of state sales and marketing regulations.

Other policy priorities for Hochman include tackling fentanyl with tougher penalties for drug dealers and establishing a statewide task force to end human trafficking.

He has blamed two state laws, Propositions 47 and 57, passed by voters over the past decade for perceived “lawlessness” in California’s cities. Proposition 47 reduced some theft and drug felonies to misdemeanors, and Proposition 57 revised California’s probation process by increasing good behavior credits that allow earlier release of inmates.

Bonta said he has an intense focus on prosecuting fentanyl traffickers and prosecuting human traffickers. His office recently announced that it has seized millions of fentanyl pills and nearly 900 pounds of fentanyl powder since April 2021. He said he was “ready to change course” on criminal justice reform legislation, but said there was little evidence it was wreaking havoc in California.

Hochman has raised more than $3 million, according to state campaign funding records, and Bonta has raised more than $8 million.

https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2022-10-20/the-race-for-california-attorney-general-a-high-profile-position-on-abortion-gun-control California attorney general race highlights debate over abortion

Alley Einstein

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