Tuesday, November 9, 2021

California: San Francisco District Attorney Recall makes the ballot; Scheduled for June 7, 2022

The recall of San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin has gotten on the ballot, with petitioners handing over 83,484 signatures and needing 51,325 valids. There is no word on how many signatures were valid (they used a statistical sampling method of 4174 signatures and found that it would meet the requirement). The recall election has been set for the June 7th primary date. There is no replacement race. The mayor would select any replacement. 

This (and the three school board officials scheduled for February) are the first recalls in San Francisco since 1983. This would be the second recall of a District Attorney in California in two years, as the Sonoma County DA survived a vote on September 14. That may have been the first recall of a District Attorney in California since 2001 (in Marin County).

I looked at the recall of District Attorneys in some more depth in this piece in the Recorder and why there are so few D.A. recalls in the US.

District Attorney recalls are quite unusual. Until the Sonoma County D.A., I counted only four recalls against attorney positions in 10 years (with one other official resigning). The only one that took place in California was in 2013 against San Bernardino City Attorney Jim Penman. Penman, who represented the city but did not try criminal cases like a District Attorney, lost the vote. 

 One book that looks at recalls in California until 1930 mentions notes that there was only one District Attorney recall that led to an ouster up to that point, the Kern County D.A. in 1917. A San Francisco D.A. also faced a recall in 1917, but he survived the vote easily. 

Notably, there are fewer District Attorneys, usually only one per jurisdiction, as opposed to the multi-member city councils and other legislative bodies. District Attorneys usually faced less controversy and were more the crusading "tough on crime" types. But since the 2017 Philadelphia D.A. Larry Krasner election, there has been a change in who has run for the office. The Boudin recall (and the attempt against Los Angeles D.A. George Gascon) appears to be a reaction to this success.

The recall (San Franciscans for Public Safety) is led by local Democrats Mary Jung (the former chair of the local Democratic Party) and Andrea Shorter. The pro-recall side has raised about $1.6 million, while the anti-recall forces have raised about $800,000.

A first recall effort against Boudin failed, with petitioners claiming that they were1714 signatures short (though that is before verification, so it could be a lot less).

This first recall was led by former Republican Mayoral candidate Richie Greenberg (though Greenberg said he was replaced as head of the effort). It was considered the "Republican" recall. The recall is over complaints over lenient treatment of criminals. Recall efforts kicked into high gear after a convict who was arrested on suspicion of driving a stolen vehicle and violating probation was released without bail and then ran over two women while running a red light. 

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