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

Dist progressive. Atti. Chesa Boudin, who has become a lightning rod for controversies over crime and homelessness in San Francisco, will not complete his first term as the city’s top attorney.

Some ballots remained to be counted Tuesday night. But among the more than 100,000 votes counted in the recall election, more than 61% of voters wanted to oust Boudin from office, an insurmountable margin.

The bitter and costly reminder has become a referendum on some of San Francisco’s most painfully visible social issues, including homelessness, property crime and drug addiction.

The recall campaign portrayed Boudin as a lenient crime prosecutor who cares nothing for public safety. And it has linked his penal reform policies to a high-profile crime spree, including a fatal hit-and-run involving a man on parole, a series of armed robberies at high-end Union Square stores and a wave of attacks on elderly Asian American residents.

Mary Jung, the chair of the recall campaign, said Tuesday night that voters sent a “clear message” that they wanted a new district attorney who would hold “serious, violent, repeat offenders accountable while never forgetting the rights of victims and their families. ”

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

At The Ramp restaurant in Misson Bay, Boudin told supporters that the national push for criminal justice reform was bigger than any election or city.

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

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

Raj Marwari, 40, who lives in Marina district and works in finance, said he voted to recall Boudin because “it’s obviously gotten worse in every way”, including the homelessness. He said he was embarrassed when his parents from Texas visit town.

“Safe is not a word I would use to describe San Francisco,” Marwari said. Removing Boudin from office will not solve everything, he said, but “when the player is doing badly, you have to remove him”.

Property and violent crime fell by double digit percentages in Boudin’s first two years in office. But some individual categories of crime have jumped over the same period: burglaries are up 47%; motor vehicle theft, 36%. Homicides have also increased, although the city saw its lowest number of murders in more than half a century in 2019.

Like other prosecutors in the national movement to reinvent the criminal justice system, Boudin came forward on a platform to reduce mass incarceration and divert low-level offenders to drug and mental health treatment at the place of prison cells.

Boudin’s loss may have national implications, including for Los Angeles County Dist. Atti. George Gascón, who is facing his second recall attempt in two years.

Supporters of Gascón’s recall effort were elated with Tuesday’s result. The campaign needs to collect at least 67,000 more signatures over the next month to qualify the recall effort for the Southern California ballot.

Recall campaign spokesman Tim Lineberger said the news from the Bay Area would embolden the volunteers.

“Voters from all communities and walks of life, regardless of their political ideology, reject pro-criminal policies that are masked as criminal justice reform,” Lineberger said. “The failed social experiments of George Gascón and Chesa Boudin destroyed communities without doing anything to meaningfully reform the system. If LA County voters sign and return their recall petitions, Gascón will walk the same plank for the foreseeable future.

During his two-and-a-half-year tenure as San Francisco attorney general, Boudin refused to seek the death penalty or try juveniles as adults. It dramatically reduced the reliance on sentence enhancements. A San Francisco police officer was tried for the first time this year for excessive force, although the officer, Terrance Stangle, 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 fueled by fear and funded by outside conservative money coming into our progressive city.”

Expenses related to the recall topped $10 million, according to city ethics documents. More than two-thirds of that sum — about $7.3 million — came from backing for the recall, including a political action committee partly funded 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 call the recall a Republican-led effort in San Francisco’s dark blue, a point he reiterated in the loss Tuesday night.

“I want to be very clear about what happened tonight. Right-wing billionaires spent 3 times more than us. They exploited an environment in which people are appropriately upset. And they created electoral momentum where we were literally shadowboxing,” Boudin said. “Voters weren’t asked to choose between criminal justice reform and something else. seized this opportunity.

Debra Walker, who was recently appointed to the San Francisco Police Commission and did not support the recall, said she saw the campaign as a visceral reaction from voters frustrated with the situation on city streets. , rather than a rebuke of criminal justice reform. The situation, she said, is more nuanced than “police versus reform.”

“People are really fed up with things not changing when it comes to street safety,” Walker said. “I don’t know if that’s anti-progressive per se. I think it’s anti-left extremist. Just as there are extremes on the right, there are extremes on the left, and in general, it doesn’t work very well.

John Burris, a well-known Bay Area civil rights lawyer who has backed Boudin, said he believes the district attorney kept his promise to hold police accountable, but struggled with it. the “messaging” during the recall campaign.

While critics were able to capture a number of high-profile crimes, including a series of alarming break-ins at high-end retailers during the Christmas season, Boudin was unable to counter the perception that the crime was out of control despite police statistics that said otherwise.

“It’s the product of bad timing and political machinations. We are now in a time where if you lie often enough, it becomes the truth,” Burris said, adding that he also believed Boudin was blamed for city-wide issues, including homelessness, that were beyond his control.

Michael Wald, 81, a retired Stanford law professor, voted to keep Boudin in office. Recalls “are a very bad way to approach 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 burglarized last year. “What I want is for the city to adopt policies that make it less likely to fall into crime in the first place.”

Sosa reported from San Francisco, and Nelson and Queally from Los Angeles.

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