Chesa Boudin gets the boot as San Franciscans Sour on justice reforms

San Francisco recalled its progressive district attorney Chesa Boudin on Tuesday, alerting pro-reform prosecutors across the country as the San Francisco Chronicle called the race just an hour after polls closed.

Returns showed about three in five San Franciscans voted to oust Boudin after a recall campaign by local Republicans, law enforcement officials and a contingent of Democrats claimed he was being too soft on the crime.

In a provocative speech acknowledging his recall on Wednesday night, Boudin blamed “right-wing billionaires [who] outspent us 3 to 1″ and “created an electoral dynamic where we literally shadowboxed” because “voters had the opportunity to express their frustration and outrage and they seized that opportunity.”

Boudin had won the post of chief prosecutor in 2019, winning a narrow victory in a hotly contested ranked choice contest, after promising to increase police accountability and reduce incarceration.

The prosecutor, once a public defender for the city and the son of two convicted Weather Underground members who was raised by two other members of the group, however, was immediately criticized.

In 2020, he brought a homicide charge against a police officer for the first time in the city’s history. And, while still in office, he sent more people to diversion programs than his predecessors.

But those changes weren’t in the city’s best interest, said Brooke Jenkins, a former prosecutor under Boudin. Instead, she told Vox, Boudin was too low for anti-Asian hate crimes, which went from nine to 60 victims (half of which were targeted by a man).

“Chesa effectively functions as a public defender with the title of district attorney,” Jenkins said before the recall vote. “I believe because of that, he’s failing to deter crime in San Francisco.”

The overall number of major crimes increased under Boudin, including the number of burglaries, carjackings and homicides. Proponents of the recall pointed to Boudin’s weak conviction and lesser charges as the culprit, while his supporters argued the increase was part of a national trend rather than the result of his approach.

Once the vocal and promising leader of criminal justice reform among district attorneys, Boudin’s recall could be the start of recalling progressive prosecutors nationwide, says Anne Irwin, executive of Smart Justice California and supporter of Black pudding.

“There is no doubt that if the recall in San Francisco is successful, it will be the playbook nationwide for those who want to roll back criminal justice reform,” she told Politico.

The conservatives’ next target could also be in California, where District Attorney George Gascón has faced recall efforts in Los Angeles. Although these attempts have not yet been voted on, he faces similar criticism to Boudin.

Among those calling for Gascón’s recall is the city’s assistant district attorney, Jon Hatami, who regularly appears on Fox News to claim his boss is responsible for the rise in crime.

“Chesa Boudin will be recalled and George Gascón, you’re next,” Hatami said Monday in a pre-recorded statement to Fox News. “The people of Los Angeles have had enough.”

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