early and often

Los Angeles DA Avoids Chesa Boudin’s Fate

Los Angeles County district attorney George Gascón. Photo: Jason Armond/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

You’d think after San Francisco district attorney Chesa Boudin’s recall by voters earlier this year for controversially liberal policies and prosecutorial strategies, his Los Angeles counterpart, George Gascón, might be a sitting duck. After all, the two men have often been discussed in the same breath as national symbols of criminal-justice reform, and Gascón was actually Boudin’s predecessor in the City by the Bay before moving to L.A. to care for his ailing mother and then running for DA. But while the Boudin recall in June won 55 percent of the vote and saw one of its leaders, Brooke Jenkins, win appointment to the office, a parallel effort aimed at toppling Gascón well before the expiration of his term in 2024 has officially failed because of an inadequate number of validated petitions, as the Los Angeles Times reported:

To put Gascón’s job on the ballot, the campaign seeking his ouster needed to gather 566,857 valid signatures by mid-July; the figure reflects 10% of the people who were eligible to vote in the election cycle when he won office in November 2020. The L.A. County registrar-recorder/county clerk’s office said Monday that about 520,000 of the signatures submitted were valid.

A total of 715,000 signatures were submitted by the recall campaign to force a November vote to remove Gascón, but 45,000 were duplicates and well over another 100,000 were from people who are not registered voters. This is the second failed recall attempt aimed at Gascón; an earlier effort collapsed far short of its goal in September 2021.

Much like Boudin, Gascón drew fire from police unions, victim’s-rights groups, and other prosecutors for refusing to seek the death penalty, halting the transfer of juvenile defendants to adult courts, and declining to pursue available sentencing enhancements. His recall was avidly promoted by Los Angeles sheriff Alex Villanueva and mayoral candidate Rick Caruso. But Gascón did try to respond to some criticisms in ways that might have cooled the recall fever.

There is a chance recall organizers will pursue a lawsuit challenging the signature-review system utilized by the county clerk’s office, but the organizers themselves are being sued by a signature-gathering company for unpaid bills. So it looks as though Gascón will survive a bit longer to balance his criminal-justice-reform principles with public opinion.

Los Angeles DA Avoids Chesa Boudin’s Fate