2022 San Francisco DA Chesa Boudin recall results


Progressive Dist. Atti. Chesa Boudin, who became a lightning rod for controversies over crime and homelessness in San Francisco, will not finish his first term as the city’s top prosecutor.

Some ballots remained to be counted late Tuesday. But among the more than 100,000 votes tallied in the recall election, more than 61% of voters wanted to oust Boudin from office, an insurmountable margin.

The bitter, expensive recall became a referendum on some of San Francisco’s most painfully visible social problems, including homelessness, property crime and drug addiction.

The recall campaign painted Boudin as a soft-on-crime prosecutor who doesn’t care about public safety. And it tied his criminal reform policies to a wave of high-profile crimes, including a fatal hit-and-run involving a man on parole, a series of smash-and-grab robberies from high-end Union Square stores and a wave of attacks against elderly Asian American residents.

Mary Jung, the chair of the recall campaign, said Tuesday night that voters sent a “clear message” that they want a new district attorney who will hold “serious, violent and repeat offenders accountable while never forgetting the rights of victims and their families. ”

“This election does not mean that San Francisco has drifted to the far right on our approach to criminal justice,” Jung said. “In fact, San Francisco has been a national beacon for progressive criminal justice reform for decades and will continue to do so with new leadership.”

Raj Marwari, 40, who lives in the Marina District and works in finance, said he voted to recall Boudin because “obviously, things have gotten worse in every way,” including homelessness. He said he is embarrassed when his parents from Texas visit the city.

“Safe is not a word I’d use to describe San Francisco,” Marwari said. Removing Boudin from office won’t solve everything, he said, but “when the player’s doing bad, you’ve got to pull ’em.”

Property and violent crimes fell by double-digit percentages during Boudin’s first two years in office. But some individual categories of crime surged in the same time frame: Burglaries rose 47%; motor vehicle theft, 36%. Homicides also increased, though the city saw its lowest number of killings in more than a half-century in 2019.

Like other prosecutors in the nationwide movement to reimagine the criminal justice system, Boudin ran on a platform to reduce mass incarceration and divert low-level offenders into drug and mental health treatment instead of jail cells.

Boudin’s loss may have national implications, including for Los Angeles County Dist. Atti. George Gascón, who is facing his second recall attempt in two years.

Supporters of the Gascón recall effort were elated by Tuesday’s result. The campaign needs to collect at least 67,000 more signatures over the next month to qualify the recall effort for the ballot in Southern California.

Recall campaign spokesperson Tim Lineberger said the news out of the Bay Area would embolden volunteers.

“Voters from every community and every walk of life, regardless of political ideology, are rejecting pro-criminal policies that are masked as criminal justice reform,” Lineberger said. “George Gascón and Chesa Boudin’s failed social experiments have destroyed communities while doing nothing to meaningfully reform the system. If LA County voters sign and return their recall petitions, Gascón will be walking the same plank in the near future.”

During Boudin’s 2½-year tenure as San Francisco’s top prosecutor, he has refused to seek the death penalty or try juveniles as adults. He has significantly reduced the use of sentencing enhancements. A San Francisco police officer stood trial for excessive force this year for the first time, though the officer, Terrance Stangle, was acquitted.

“It’s tough to see this,” said Kaylah Williams-May, 29, who was Boudin’s campaign manager when he ran for district attorney in 2019, and now works with labor unions. “It’s really hard to see the recall being fueled around fear and funded by outside conservative money coming into our progressive city.”

Debra Walker, who was recently nominated to the San Francisco Police Commission and did not support the recall, said she saw the campaign as a visceral reaction from voters frustrated by the situation on the city’s streets, rather than a rebuke of criminal justice reform. The situation, she said, is more nuanced that “policing vs. reform.”

“People have really had it with things not changing around safety in the streets,” Walker said. “I don’t know that it’s anti-progressive, per se. I think it’s anti-extremist on the left. Just as there are extremes on the right, there are extremes on the left, and in general, they aren’t working very well.”

Michael Wald, 81, a retired Stanford law professor, voted to keep Boudin in office. Recalls “are a very bad way of addressing public policy” and should be reserved for candidates who have done something unethical or illegal, he said.

“Crime is a part of life,” said Wald, whose home was burglarized last year. “What I want is the city to adopt policies that make it less likely to get into crime in the first place.”

Sosa reported from San Francisco, and Nelson and Queally from Los Angeles.



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