Opponents of Los Angeles County’s District Attorney George Gascón have failed in a second attempt to recall the progressive prosecutor, news media report.
The multi-million dollar recall campaign — largely supported by police unions, conservative mega-donors, and anti-reform politicians — failed to gather the almost 567,000 signatures necessary to get the recall measure on the November midterm ballot, falling short by nearly 47,000, the Los Angeles Times and the Guardian reported Aug. 15.
The campaign submitted more than 700,000 signatures in support of the recall, but close to 200,000 (about 27%) were declared invalid by the LA County Registrar’s office because they were duplicates, the person’s signature didn’t match what was on file, or the person was not a registered voter.
“Grateful to move forward from this attempted political power grab,” Gascón tweeted. “Rest assured LA County, the work hasn’t stopped. My pri-mary focus has been & will always be keeping us safe & creating a more equitable justice system for all.”
Since taking office, Gascón has received praise but also criticism. His reform policies have drawn fire from seemingly every direction, including many of the deputy prosecutors in his own office who supported the recall campaign, the Guardian reported.
Gascón has been a strong proponent of prison diversion programs for some low-level offenders. He has also taken a stance against excessive or disproportionate prison sentences, cash bail for non-violent felonies, the death penalty, and gang-related sentencing enhancements.
In spite of his previous tenures as San Francisco’s Chief of Police and DA, Gascón has been heavily criticized by law enforcement agencies and officers’ unions, likely due to his prosecution of police officers who commit crimes. According to the Guardian, Gascón brought criminal assault charges against one officer who shot and injured a man during a mental health crisis and charged another with manslaughter after he killed an unarmed man.
Victims’ advocates, too, have criticized Gascón’s policies, not least his refusal to charge children as adults. He has been plagued by recent controversial high-pro-file cases, including that of 26-year-old Hannah Tubbs, a transgender woman who was 17 when she sexually abused a child. As she was a minor when she committed the crime, she was charged as a juvenile and received a light sentence, sparking outrage nationwide.
Nonetheless, supporters of justice reform are calling the failed recall effort a win.
“Los Angeles’ criminal justice reform movement has prevailed because this is a community that prefers facts over misplaced fear,” said Christine Soto DeBerry, executive director of the pro-reform group Prosecutors Alliance of California.
“With another failed recall attempt behind us, we hope opponents to reform will look to the data, science and the future, instead of relying on ineffective models from the past,” she said.
The LA Times and other news outlets have also countered the recall rhetoric blam-ing Gascón’s reform policies for recent spikes in violence and criminality — the same kind of rhetoric that drove the successful June recall of Chesa Boudin, Gascón’s successor as San Francisco’s DA.
The Gascón recall effort was “[f]ueled by Republican mega-donors, police unions, and others ideologically opposed to reform,” said Anne Irwin, executive director of the reform advocacy group Smart Justice California.
“[T]he campaign followed a familiar pattern of using misinformation, fear-mongering, and the politicization of tragedies to scapegoat District Attorney George Gascón … Angelenos saw through these disingenuous tactics for a second time,” she added.
The recall campaign was surprised and disappointed by the news that their measure had failed to make the ballot, the Guardian reported.
According to a statement by recall organizers, the roughly 520,000 valid and verified signatures collected by the campaign showed that LA was fed up with reform.
“To interpret this in any other way other than a wholesale rejection of Gascón’s dangerous policies [sic] would be disingenuous, or naive at best,” the statement said.
However, University of Southern California law professor Jody David Armour said this shows that voters are still in favor of serious reform.
“This establishes that there’s no buyer’s remorse from voters who supported criminal justice reform,” Armour said. “If anything, the Chesa Boudin recall is more the aberration than the pattern.”