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Prop H: Voters weigh in on fate of San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin


SAN FRANCISCO — San Francisco voters, fed up with brazen burglaries and car wrecks, could oust one of the nation’s most progressive prosecutors in a rare recall election Tuesday that has bitterly divided Democrats.

Chesa Boudin was narrowly elected in 2019 as part of a nationwide wave of liberal district attorneys determined to reform a system they called racist and inefficient. Boudin, a former public defender, pledged to hold police and corporations accountable for social ills. Its prosecutors are not allowed to seek cash bail for defendants, charge minors as adults, or seek longer sentences because of a defendant’s gang affiliations.

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But his tenure coincided with a pandemic in which attacks on Asian Americans and viral images of rampant shoplifting have rocked residents, some of whom have launched a recall effort. They say Boudin is inexperienced and inflexible, often seeking to avoid charging criminals in favor of alternative treatment programs.

His supporters say Tory interests have poured money into a misleading campaign that unfairly accuses him of being blamed in a system in which police and judges are equally accountable. San Francisco has long struggled with property crime, and records show Boudin pressing charges at about the same rate as his equally progressive predecessor.

“This is not a recall campaign that is concerned with security or truth or justice or solutions, it is concerned with division, fear and spreading hatred and undermining the policies…that make our communities safer,” Boudin said at a recent campaign event. where he was joined by Asian, African American and Latino community leaders.

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Political pundits say Boudin is in the crosshairs of outside forces as a political newcomer who barely won his race in 2018. Reports of overall crime in the city are down, but incidents of burglary and theft Motor vehicle numbers have increased since 2017, according to San Francisco Police data.

“It’s a vote of general displeasure,” said Jason McDaniel, an associate professor of political science at San Francisco State University. “San Francisco voters are largely very liberal and pro-criminal justice reform and yet, in a time when a lot of people are upset about a lot of things, you don’t want to become the target.”

Attendance is expected to be low, which would likely hurt Boudin. In the event of a recall, the Mayor of London Breed would appoint his successor. She hasn’t publicly weighed in on the race, but clashed with him over how best to crack down on unfettered drug trafficking and opioid use in the troubled Tenderloin neighborhood.

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Former assistant district attorney Brooke Jenkins, who left Boudin’s office and joined the recall campaign last year, said San Francisco is still committed to having a progressive district attorney, but one “who understands that there must still be a responsibility”.

The recall is one of a handful of June 7 contests that could shape the progressive criminal justice reform agenda in the nation’s most populous and democratic state. They include races for district attorney in three counties in the San Francisco Bay Area and two in Southern California, said Ludovic Blain, director of the progressive California Donor Table.

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