Recalled San Francisco district attorney won’t try to get his job back in special election

Chesa Boudin was defeated in June amid frustration with crime and the state of public safety in city

Abe Asher
Friday 05 August 2022 09:51 EDT
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Former San Francisco district attorney Chesa Boudin announced on Thursday that he will not run for his old job in the upcoming November special election.

Mr Boudin, a former public defender who won election as San Francisco’s top prosecutor in 2019, was defeated in a recall election in June amid frustration with crime and the state of public safety in the city.

Mr Boudin, whose parents were members of the radical left-wing organisation the Weather Underground and were sent to prison for their role in a fatal robbery when he was just a toddler, was elected as a progressive reformer.

But frustration with his performance mounted as the Covid pandemic contributed to surges in the rates of some crime in the city — even though increases in San Francisco’s crime rate mirrored similar increases in cities across the US.

Despite little evidence that Mr Boudin’s policies themselves were responsible for an increase in the crime rate, a number of wealthy individuals funded a campaign to recall him that ultimately succeeded by a ten-point margin.

But Mr Boudin retained a devoted base of supporters who felt that he was unfairly scapegoated for issues plaguing San Francisco well outside his purview and pointed to his successes — which included ending cash bail, setting up an innocence commission to review potential wrongful convictions, routing non-violent offenders into diversion programmes, and prosecuting white collar financial crime — as reasons they wanted him to stay in the role.

San Francisco mayor London Breed, a business-friendly centrist, chose to appoint in Mr Boudin’s place one of his fiercest critics: former prosecutor Brooke Jenkins, who resigned from her role in the District Attorney’s office last year to campaign against Mr Boudin.

In her short tenure as the interim leader of the DA’s office, Ms Jenkins has set about reversing many of Mr Boudin’s relatively decarceral policies. She began by firing 15 people and then revoked plea deals in a select number of drug cases. Gang enhancements in sentencing and cash bail may return as well.

Ms Jenkins has been fulsomely praised by police in San Francisco, but time will tell whether she can produce more popular results than Mr Boudin with a hard-line, tough-on-crime approach that many familiar with the criminal justice system argue has been long since been discredited in California and across the country.

Mr Boudin did not rule out another run for office in the days following the recall election, and progressive criticism of Ms Jenkins’ approach fuelled speculation that Mr Boudin might try to reclaim his old job with what will likely be a younger and more progressive November electorate.

But Thursday’s announcement put an end to that speculation.

Mr Boudin said that nearly three straight years of campaigning had taken a toll on his personal life and that he was not prepared to launch another campaign following the recent death of his mother from cancer and recent release of his father from prison after more than 40 years. Mr Boudin wrote that his father needs support, as do the members of his own nuclear family.

“My son is on the verge of taking his first step and speaking his first word,” Mr Boudin wrote. “My wife’s research on Multiple Sclerosis at UCSF deserves the same support she has offered my work.”

Still, Mr Boudin touted his achievements in office and criticised Ms Jenkins.

“I am gravely concerned by what I’ve seen from the current, appointed District Attorney,” Mr Boudin wrote. “We have heard no assurances that the successful programs we’ve implemented will continue, and indeed, we see worrying signs every day as progress is rolled back.”

The tenor of Mr Boudin’s statements suggest that he will likely back another reform-oriented candidate in November, even if his own name won’t be on the ballot. Mr Boudin still can run again for a full, four-year term as district attorney next year.

“I know this news will come as a disappointment to many who are dedicated to reform,” Mr Boudin wrote. “I assure you I remain deeply committed to justice and to the people of San Francisco.”

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