Los Angeles DA George Gascón recall is underway

It’s been less than six months since the reformist-minded Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. George Gascon took office. But around this time, he has already faced prosecutions from his own prosecutors, interference in the cases of other California law enforcement officials, and an outcry from some crime victims who claim his policies are against them. have given up.

Despite the vitriolic, Gascón won his November election handily, edging out incumbent Jackie Lacey by more than a quarter of a million votes. Gascón’s supporters have dismissed most of the criticism of him due to misguided outrage from reform-resistant law enforcement officials or conservative politicians.

The strength of the backlash against Gascón’s plans to reinvent criminal justice in LA County will now be tested, as a petition to recall him was formally approved on Thursday.

What happened this week?

A petition to remove Gascón from office was approved Thursday by the LA County Registrar, who oversees the elections.

What is happening now?

Recall organizers must collect supporting signatures from 10% of registered LA County voters – just over 579,000 people – by October 27. Collecting signatures is a costly and laborious task, but if the organizers are successful, a recall election will then be held. Gascon would be removed from office if a majority of voters choose to dismiss him and he would be replaced by the candidate who receives the most votes in the recall election.

About 800 people have signed up as volunteer signature collectors, and another 100 paid collectors will be deployed “immediately”, according to the recall campaign. A press conference is expected in the next few days and signature collection sites have been established in dozens of locations across LA County, including several arms stores and Republican office buildings.

Because it is common for some signatures collected during recalls to be found invalid, Joshua Spivak, senior researcher at the Hugh L. Carey Institute for Government Reform at Wagner College, Gascón’s recall campaign will need to collect approximately 750,000 signatures. .

Who is behind the recall effort?

While LA County Sheriff Alex Villanueva may be the most prominent supporter, the recall campaign is being led by former Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley and two women who have lost loved ones to violent crime.

Tania Owen is the widow of a murdered LA County Sheriff’s Department sergeant, and Desiree Andrade’s son was murdered in 2018. Both said they were furious at Gascón’s decision to ban his prosecutors to seek the death penalty or allege special circumstances in murder cases. which means that those charged with murder will generally not face the death penalty or life without parole. In Owen’s case, her husband’s murderer was always given a life sentence without parole under a negotiated plea, although the deal was reached after a judge ruled some of Gascón’s policies illegal. .

Other elected officials supporting the recall effort include Fresno County Dist. Atty. Lisa Smittcamp and Kern County Dist. Cynthia Zimmer. Campaign fundraising records of a group called “Victims of Violent Crime For The Recall of District Attorney Gascon” show the financial contributions of police unions in several cities, including Gardena, Beverly Hills and Glendale. A number of Los Angeles police officers and prosecutors also contributed.

Why don’t the recall organizers like Gascon?

The petition alleges that “Gascón abandoned the victims of crime and their families.

“Gascón has flouted the rule of law and weakened legal sentencing requirements for the most violent criminals, including murderers, armed robbers and rapists,” the petition continues. “George Gascon’s new policies treat professional violent offenders and repeat offenders as if they had never committed a crime, ignoring public safety laws approved by the people.

In general, opponents of Gascón have criticized his policies prohibiting the use of the death penalty, ending legal proceedings against minors as adults, severely limiting the use of sentence enhancements, and barring prosecutors to oppose the release of previously convicted defendants who are now eligible for parole.

Supporters of the recall and many local law enforcement officials also tried to blame growing crime in Gascón, but violence was already on the rise in LA County in 2020, before Gascón took office. While property crime has skyrocketed during Gascon’s eight years as a San Francisco district attorney, violent crime has remained relatively static.

How likely is the recall to succeed?

Experts and political observers generally view recalls as difficult battles. The brevity of Gascón’s tenure and the current political headwinds that have seen progressive prosecutors take office in the United States could pose significant challenges to the effort.

Spivak said this attempt to recall Gascón differs from the one pursuing Governor Gavin Newsom in significant ways.

Newsom’s recall campaign got significantly more time to collect signatures due to the pandemic and was able to tap into conservative areas of northern and eastern California for support. The effort to bring down Gascón, meanwhile, is played out in a county with a relatively progressive electorate.

A recent UCLA Survey, however, found that Gascón’s favor rating was only 31%, down from 32% unfavorable earlier this year. And 15 county town councils have passed “no confidence” resolutions towards Gascón in recent months, despite being in towns that represent a relatively small share of the county’s electorate.

How did Gascon react?

Max Szabo, Gascón’s political spokesman, dismissed the recall effort as a fringe right-wing movement that exploited victims of crime.

“It was announced on the day of his inauguration,” Szabo said. “There is a finish line in politics, it’s called election day. If you lose, practice off season and be ready to play next time.

Szabo pointed out a survey published in March which showed that of 724 victims of crime in LA County, 61% favored treatment and rehabilitation over incarceration as a form of punishment, suggesting that the recall effort described in wrongly the victims of crime as being universally opposed to Gascón. Critics questioned the validity of the poll, noting that it was organized by a group politically allied with Gascón.

Szabo also said that some of the debates that led to the recent no-confidence votes were separate from reality.

“We have seen council members make statements that are devoid of fact. They are either incomprehensible [Gascón’s] directives or by distorting them completely, ”he said. “We hear how policies lead to increased crime, but that doesn’t stand up to a minimum of scrutiny.”

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