A high-profile effort to oust George Gascón, the progressive district attorney of Los Angeles County, America’s most populous county, failed after election officials announced Monday that proponents of recalling Gascón had not collected enough valid signatures to make the ballot.
Gascón was propelled to office in 2020 by grass-roots activists after the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, but he almost immediately faced backlash for enacting the sorts of policies they had called for. This is the second time an attempt to recall Gascón fizzled out.
“Grateful to move forward from this attempted political power grab — rest assured LA County, the work hasn’t stopped,” Gascón said on Twitter on Monday. “My primary focus has been & will always be keeping us safe & creating a more equitable justice system for all.”
The announcement comes two months after voters in San Francisco ousted District Attorney Chesa Boudin, which put liberal prosecutors elsewhere on edge. But it’s difficult to draw neat conclusions about how Angelenos — or Americans generally — feel about criminal justice reform from the Gascón news alone.
When he took office in December 2020, Gascón, the former top prosecutor in San Francisco, promised to end cash bail and make other sweeping policy changes. Los Angeles County is a huge stage for these reforms — it’s home to nearly 10 million people and has both the nation’s largest prosecutor’s office and its biggest jail system.
Raphael Sonenshein, the executive director of the Pat Brown Institute for Public Affairs at California State University, Los Angeles, cautioned against drawing strong conclusions from the failure of Gascón’s recall.
Sonenshein described the present moment as a tenuous one: Criminal justice reform is more popular than ever, while taking a tough-on-crime position remains popular too. That means we’re likely to see candidates on both sides succeed, with the results telling us more about the popularity of individual politicians than their views on crime.
Take the seemingly conflicting evidence of this year so far: Boudin, a progressive prosecutor, was recalled by a wide margin in San Francisco. Representative Karen Bass secured more votes in the Los Angeles mayoral primary in June than Rick Caruso, who vowed to crack down on crime. Rob Bonta, the only Democrat in the statewide race to become California’s attorney general, led his primary by a wide margin, despite repeated attacks that he was soft on crime.
“It’s going to go up and down, because now it’s actually kind of a fight,” Sonenshein said. “This is a major debate all over the country.”
“The days when no progressive prosecutor can be elected is probably gone, but people probably overstated the feeling that they’re always going to be popular.”
To get a recall of Gascón on the ballot, petitioners needed to collect 566,857 valid signatures, according to the Los Angeles County registrar-recorder, Dean C. Logan. Though they submitted 715,833, only 520,050 were found to be valid. Reasons for disqualification included that the signee wasn’t registered, had signed multiple times or didn’t live in the county.
John McKinney, a Los Angeles deputy district attorney who reportedly had planned to run against Gascón in a potential recall election, said on Monday that he would call for a review of the disqualified signatures.
“I am gravely concerned about the health and safety of our community and the viability of our entire court system with Gascón at the helm of the district attorney’s office,” McKinney said in a statement. “More than ever, the public needs to pay attention to what the Gascón administration is doing and speak out to other elected officials about their concerns.”
Gascón will be up for re-election next year.
What you get
For $850,000: A mountain retreat in Idyllwild, a 2006 ranch house in San Miguel and a Craftsman bungalow in San Diego.
Where we’re traveling
Today’s tip comes from Zach Hoffman, who recommends Sinkyone Wilderness State Park in Mendocino County:
“Up near Shelter Cove on the ‘Lost Coast,’ the state park is wonderfully overgrown. A simple structure represents the visitor center at the north end, and the rest of the park is wilderness, with great trails, campsites, and sea breeze galore. There’s also tons of wildlife, and the beaches have tons of seals, otters, cormorants, and more. We also saw a cow elk just snacking on some leaves near our campsite!”
Tell us about your favorite places to visit in California. Email your suggestions to [email protected] We’ll be sharing more in upcoming editions of the newsletter.
And before you go, some good news
Steffanie Strathdee was holding her dying husband’s hand as she watched him lose an exhausting fight against a deadly superbug infection.
It was February 2016, and doctors had just told her that her husband, Tom Patterson, was too racked with bacteria to live. While on a trip to Egypt, Patterson had been infected with a virulent bacterium that’s resistant to nearly all antibiotics.
But Strathdee, associate dean of global health sciences at U.C. San Diego, then accomplished something nearly miraculous. She found an obscure treatment that offered a glimmer of hope — fighting superbugs with phages, which are viruses that eat bacteria.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism