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.
The rest of the news
Colorado River: The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation in June told California and six other states to determine how to use at least 15 percent less water next year — or have restrictions imposed on them. That deadline is coming up this week, The Associated Press reports.
Records retention bill: California state agencies will be able to keep deleting emails and other documents as soon as officials see fit after legislators killed a records retention bill, The Sacramento Bee reports.
Watering ban: Los Angeles County officials will be suspending outdoor watering in several areas to repair a leaking pipeline, The Los Angeles Times reports.
L.A.U.S.D.: A Black parent filed a civil rights lawsuit against the Los Angeles Unified School District, saying that a cotton field was set up at an elementary school to teach students about the experiences of slaves, The Los Angeles Times reports.
Hate crimes: Hate crimes in Los Angeles are rising at a record-setting pace, Crosstown reports.
U.C.S.D.: U.C. San Diego offered admission to 9,456 fewer prospective freshman this fall than it did a year ago to cope with its unprecedented enrollment demand, The San Diego Union-Tribune reports.
Phone ban: Bullard High School will require students to lock away their phones during class, The Fresno Bee reports.
Staffing strike: Nearly 2,000 Kaiser Permanente psychologists, therapists, social workers and other mental health workers in Northern California began an open-ended strike over staffing shortages, The Associated Press reports.
Netflix campus: The streaming giant put an entire campus in its Silicon Valley hometown, Los Gatos, up for sublease during a turbulent year for the company, SFGate reports.
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.
What we’re eating
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.
Three weeks later, Strathdee watched doctors intravenously inject an unproven phage cocktail into her husband’s body — and save his life.
Thanks for reading. I’ll be back tomorrow. — Soumya
P.S. Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: TV host Philbin (5 letters).
Briana Scalia contributed to California Today. You can reach the team at [email protected].
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