Progressive Los Angeles prosecutor facing intense recall effort

Progressive Los Angeles prosecutor facing intense recall effort

After the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25, 2020, former San Francisco Police Chief George Gascón campaigned for Los Angeles County district attorney on a platform of criminal justice reform — and he won with 54% of the vote. But now, there is a movement to recall the 68-year-old prosecutor in response to the crime wave L.A. has been suffering.

In California, it isn’t very hard to recall an elected official. Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom was targeted for a recall in 2021, and he not only survived the recall, but crushed his main challenger, far-right radio host Larry Elder, in the election. If anything, that recall strengthened Newsom politically and showed how much of a fighter he is; there has been talk of Newsom possibly running for president in 2024 if President Joe Biden doesn’t seek reelection.

But it remains to be seen what will happen with Gascón, who discussed the recall movement against him when interviewed by Politico.

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Politico’s Ryan Lizza, in an article published on July 15, notes that after his victory in 2020, Gascón believed he had a mandate for criminal justice reform.

“Gascón moved quickly after he was sworn in,” Lizza recalls. “He ended cash bail for misdemeanors and non-violent felonies. He told his deputy district attorneys not to seek the death penalty anymore, to never try juveniles as adults, to stop prosecuting people for first-time non-violent misdemeanors, and to stop using so-called sentencing enhancements, which allow prosecutors to pile on jail time. And he did all of that on his first day in office. Then came the backlash.”

Lizza continues, “When certain types of crime spiked in Los Angeles, Gascón got the blame. In Beverly Hills, the city council passed a vote-of-no-confidence resolution against him.”

The Beverly Hills City Council has unanimously voted in favor of recalling Gascón as Los Angeles County DA. Beverly Hills has its own city government, separate from the Los Angeles city government. But it is part of Los Angeles County.

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Gascón, speaking to Politico, stressed that when it comes to criminal justice, the mood in Los Angeles County in 2022 is much different from what it was in 2020 when he ran for DA and won.

Gascón told Politico, “It became fashionable for affluent White people to want to be pro-police accountability. It was kind of the chic thing to do. So, you also are going to want to be seen with (Black Lives Matter). They wanted to be in demonstrations, right?.… I’m a little cynical now, looking back. At the time, I actually thought that there was a parting of the waters. I said, ‘For the first time, I’m hearing White affluent people understanding the suffering of Black people in this country and poor people.’ And I thought, ‘This is a reversal.’ I was wrong.”

In June, San Francisco recalled former District Attorney Chesa Boudin, which Lizza describes as an “ominous” sign for Gascón.

The bilingual Los Angeles DA was born in pre-communist Havana, Cuba on March 12, 1954, which was five years before the Cuban Revolution. And he was 13 when his family moved to the U.S. in 1967. Gascón went on to have a long career in law enforcement in California, joining the Los Angeles Police Department in 1978 and later holding positions that ranged from San Francisco police chief to San Francisco DA.

Gascón told Politico, “The week that I got sworn in, they started talking about recalling me. And they had to be told you have to wait at least 90 days. So, I’ve been fighting recall since Day 1.”

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