San Francisco voters recall D.A. Chesa Boudin in election

Progressive Distance Atty. Chesa Boudin, who became a lightning conductor for controversies over crime and homelessness in San Francisco, will not complete his first term as the city’s chief attorney.

Some ballot papers still had to be counted late Tuesday. But among the more than 100,000 votes tallied in the recall election, more than 61% of voters wanted Boudin out of office, an insurmountable difference.

The bitter, expensive recall became a referendum on some of San Francisco’s most painfully visible social issues, including homelessness, property crime and drug addiction.

The recall portrayed Boudin as a crime-friendly prosecutor with no concern for public safety. And it combined its criminal reform policies with a spate of high-profile crimes, including a fatal hit-and-run involving a probationer, a string of robberies at high-end Union Square stores, and a spate of attacks on elderly Asian-American residents.

Mary Jung, the chair of the recall campaign, said Tuesday night voters had sent a “clear message” that they want a new district attorney who “holds serious, violent and repeat offenders to account while never violating the rights of victims and their families.” forgets. ”

“This election does not mean that San Francisco has drifted to the right in terms of our approach to criminal justice,” Jung said. “Indeed, San Francisco has been a national beacon for progressive criminal justice reform for decades and will continue to do so with new leadership.”

At The Ramp restaurant in Mission Bay, Boudin told his supporters that the nationwide push for criminal justice reform is bigger than any election or city.

“We know that people wrote the obituary for this election before our campaign even started,” he said. “But we’re just getting started because we knew that fixing a system that had systematically failed us — not just for decades, but for generations, for centuries — wasn’t the work of a year or a term. It is certainly not the work of a man or a woman or an office.”

Mayor London Breed will appoint an interim district attorney shortly after the San Francisco Board of Supervisors accepts the results of the recall election. Another election will be held in November to determine who will serve as prosecutor through 2026.

Raj Marwari, 40, who lives in Marina District and works in finance, said he voted to recall Boudin because “obviously things have gotten worse in every way,” including homelessness. He said he feels embarrassed when his Texas parents visit the city.

“Sure is not a word I would use to describe San Francisco,” Marwari said. Boudin’s removal from office will not solve everything, he said, but “if the player is down, you have to pull him.”

Property and violent crime fell by double-digit percentages during Boudin’s first two years in office. But some individual crime categories rose sharply over the same period: burglaries rose 47%; Vehicle theft, 36%. Homicides also increased, although 2019 saw the city record its lowest number of homicides in more than half a century.

Like other prosecutors in the nationwide movement to reshape the criminal justice system, Boudin ran on a platform to reduce mass incarceration and redirect low-level offenders to drug and psychiatric treatment rather than jail cells.

Boudin’s loss may have national ramifications, including for Los Angeles County Dist. atty George Gascón, who faces his second recall attempt in two years.

Supporters of Gascón’s recall were delighted with Tuesday’s result. The campaign must collect at least 67,000 more signatures over the next month to qualify the callback for voting in Southern California.

Recall campaign spokesman Tim Lineberger said the news from the Bay Area was encouraging for the volunteers.

“Voters from all communities and walks of life, regardless of political ideology, oppose pro-criminal policies disguised as criminal justice reform,” Lineberger said. “The failed social experiments of George Gascón and Chesa Boudin destroyed communities and did nothing to reform the system in a meaningful way. If LA County voters sign and return their recall petitions, Gascón will be following the same path for the foreseeable future.”

During Boudin’s two-and-a-half-year tenure as San Francisco’s chief attorney, he has refused to seek the death penalty or try juveniles as adults. He has significantly reduced the use of law enforcement enhancements. A San Francisco police officer was tried for the first time this year on charges of excessive use of force, although officer Terrance Stangel was acquitted.

“It’s hard to see that,” said Kaylah Williams-May, 29, who was Boudin’s campaign manager when he ran for district attorney in 2019 and now works with unions. “It’s really hard to see the recall being fueled by fear and funded by outside conservative money coming into our progressive city.”

Expenditure on the recall exceeded $10 million, according to the city’s ethics records. More than two-thirds of that — about $7.3 million — came from recall backers, including a political action committee funded in part by billionaire hedge fund manager William Oberndorf. Oberndorf has donated millions to Republican campaigns — including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s fund for Republican Senate candidates.

Boudin repeatedly tried to brand the recall as a Republican-led effort in dark blue San Francisco, a point he reiterated in Tuesday night’s defeat.

“I want to be very clear about what happened tonight. The right-wing billionaires outbid us 3 to 1. They have taken advantage of an environment where people get appropriately upset. And they created an election dynamic where we were literally shadow boxing,” Boudin said. “Voters were not asked to choose between criminal justice reform and something else. They were given the opportunity to express their frustration and outrage and they took the opportunity.”

Debra Walker, who was recently nominated for the San Francisco Police Commission and did not support the recall, said she sees the campaign as a visceral reaction from voters frustrated by the situation on the city’s streets, rather than a rebuke of the criminal justice reform. The situation, she said, is more nuanced than “policing vs. reform.”

“People are really fed up with the fact that things don’t change in terms of safety on the roads,” Walker said. “I don’t know if that’s anti-progressive per se. I think it’s an anti-extremist on the left. Just as there are extremes on the right side, there are extremes on the left side, and generally they don’t work very well.”

John Burris, a famous Bay Area civil rights attorney who supported Boudin, said he believes the district attorney made good on his promise to hold police accountable but struggled with “messages” during the recall campaign.

While critics have been able to dig up a string of high-profile crimes, including a series of alarming robberies at high-end retailers over the Christmas period, Boudin couldn’t counter the perception that crime was spiraling out of control, with police statistics saying otherwise.

“It’s a product of bad timing and political machinations. We’re in a time now where a lie told often enough becomes the truth,” Burris said, adding that he also believed Boudin was blamed for city-wide problems, including homelessness, occurring outside of his lay control.

Michael Wald, 81, a retired Stanford law professor, voted to keep Boudin in office. Callbacks “are a very bad way of addressing public policy” and should be reserved for candidates who have done something unethical or illegal, he said.

“Crime is a part of life,” said Wald, whose home was broken into last year. “What I want is for the city to adopt policies that make it less likely that they’ll get into crime in the first place.”

Sosa reported from San Francisco and Nelson and Queally from Los Angeles. San Francisco voters recall D.A. Chesa Boudin in election

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