Tuesday’s San Francisco earthquake should have shaken liberal Democratic politicians across America, particularly in the California state capital and Los Angeles.
That’s because Democratic voters — not Republican Trumpsters — have ousted a liberal district attorney from office in arguably the most liberal city in the country.
Or, if you like, replace the Liberals’ current preferred tag with “progressive.” It doesn’t matter to the voters. The terms are synonyms.
San Francisco voters had heard and seen enough: a prosecutor seemingly more focused on criminal justice reform than prosecuting criminals.
After all, this wasn’t Frisco, Texas, where most voters are Republicans. In San Francisco, Republicans make up just 7% of registered voters. 63% of voters are Democrats.
And as is regularly the case in America—including California—a liberal politician got too far ahead of the citizenry, and voters rebelled. Yes, it even happens in San Francisco.
In a landslide, voters recalled Dist. atty Chesa Boudin, a former public defender running for office, pledged to reduce mass incarceration and redirect low-level offenders to drug and mental health treatment rather than jail cells.
But homicides, auto thefts and burglaries increased. So does theft in high-end stores. Homeless camps grew and became crime scenes. Boudin came under increasing attack for being a soft prosecutor. And the voters dropped him.
“It’s a warning light” for the Democratic Party, says veteran LA Democratic strategist Garry South.
“All these crimes that are happening — robberies, people breaking into cars, stealing catalytic converters from under cars — send the message that crime is out of control.”
South adds, “We call prosecutors ‘prosecutors’ because that’s their job. They are not elected as criminal justice reformers. Or public defender. We already have them. You are not elected to excuse a killer because potty training was tough or he was bullied at school. People are fed up with these excuses.
“A prosecutor can get the job done with some compassion. But they are elected to put bad guys behind bars. And if they don’t see that and are perceived as excuses for bad guys, they will pay a price.”
Former Democratic strategist Darry Sragow says the combination of Boudin’s recall and real estate developer Rick Caruso’s strong showing in the LA mayoral race should serve as a reminder to the party that “its fortunes dwindle when incumbents address the concerns and needs of the vast majority.” of working Americans who want to wake up in the morning and pay their bills, send their children to good schools, and live and work in a safe place.
“For most voters, those needs and priorities never change.”
Sragow, who publishes the California Target Book, which oversees congressional and legislative races, said he conducted a series of focus groups in LA over the winter and found that “most voters are scared and petrified for their own safety. So many backsliders and dangerous people have been let out into the streets. Repeat offenders kill people.”
“People are just fed up and upset,” says Sragow. “You feel hopeless.”
Hopelessness was a key reason for Tuesday’s low turnout, Sragow believes — not just because the primary was terribly boring, except perhaps for the LA mayoral election and the San Francisco election.
“Voters have given up hope,” he says. “There is no trust in elected officials. It makes no sense for them to choose. Nothing will change.”
What the San Francisco recall means for LA politics is hot fodder for speculation among political junkies.
It seems certain there will be momentum for a second attempt at recalling LA County Dist. atty George Gascón, a liberal reformer who was once a San Francisco district attorney
Caruso built his mayoral campaign — the billionaire’s first run for elected office — on a promise to control crime and rid the streets of the homeless. He finished the runoff race in November just ahead of US Rep. Karen Bass.
Tuesday’s vote “means Bass needs to have a strong platform to fight crime,” says San Francisco-based Democratic pollster David Binder.
“Voters will support rehabilitation more than punishment for low-level nonviolent crime. But they want criminals to be prosecuted.”
But Binder thinks there’s too much to be made of the San Francisco results.
“That doesn’t mean that Democrats across the state are ready to throw out the Liberals,” he says. “This was a case specific to one person. He was a weak incumbent. The San Franciscans will not start with the Republican election. And that doesn’t necessarily mean Karen Bass will lose in November.”
The general election will see a significantly different LA electorate – larger, younger, more diverse. More likely to vote democratically.
“Midterm elections have been nationalized. There’s going to be a lot more interest,” said Bill Carrick, a veteran LA-based Democrat strategist.
Caruso is a former Republican who changed his voter registration from non-party to Democrat when he began running for mayor in a highly Democratic city.
“Democrats aren’t sure if Rick is a real Democrat,” says Carrick.
Caruso will clearly outperform Bass again.
But Los Angeles doesn’t have many more Republicans than San Francisco.
Bass should be at an advantage among Democrats — if they can be persuaded that she’s capable of fighting crime and homelessness. No child’s play.
https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2022-06-09/skelton-chesa-boudin-san-francisco-district-attorney-ouster Column: San Francisco voters had heard and seen enough of Chesa Boudin