Recall election aimed at LA prosecutor fails to make ballot

Aug 15, 2022, 3:02 PM | Updated: 5:47 pm
FILE - In this undated file photo provided by the County of Los Angeles, incoming Los Angeles Count...

FILE - In this undated file photo provided by the County of Los Angeles, incoming Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascon speaks after he was sworn in a virtual ceremony in downtown Los Angeles. On Monday, Aug. 15, 2022, officials said that an attempt to qualify a recall election that could have ousted Gascon from office has failed to make the ballot. (Bryan Chan/County of Los Angeles via AP, File)

(Bryan Chan/County of Los Angeles via AP, File)

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A high-profile attempt to recall a progressive district attorney in the nation’s most populous county has failed, after organizers were unable to collect sufficient, valid petition signatures to place the proposal before voters, election officials said Monday.

In a region that has seen rising crime rates and brazen smash-and-grab robberies and home invasions, Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón was faulted for criminal justice reforms that critics said fueled lawlessness, which the top prosecutor disputed.

The failed attempt comes after San Francisco voters in June recalled another prominent California criminal justice reformer, District Attorney Chesa Boudin.

It was the second attempt to qualify a recall election that could remove Gascón, after an initial attempt failed last year.

“Los Angeles’ criminal justice reform movement has prevailed because this is a community that prefers facts over misplaced fear,” Cristine Soto DeBerry, executive director of the Prosecutors Alliance that promotes reforms, said in a statement.

In a tweet, Gascón wrote that he was “grateful to move forward from this attempted political power grab.”

“My primary focus has been & will always be keeping us safe & creating a more equitable justice system for all,” he wrote.

Recall organizers needed to gather nearly 570,000 valid petition signatures to schedule an election. But county officials found only about 520,000 were valid, well below the threshold, after disqualifying nearly 200,000 signatures turned in.

In a statement, the campaign to recall Gascón called the results disappointing and said valid signatures from over 500,000 residents represented “a wholesale rejection of Gascon’s dangerous polices.”

The recall committee said it would review rejected signatures and the verification process and “seek to ensure no voter was disenfranchised.”

“The citizens of Los Angeles cannot afford another two years of Gascón unleashing havoc on their streets,” the statement said.

Gascón, a former San Francisco police chief who then became DA in that city, won office in Los Angeles in November 2020 as part of a wave of progressive prosecutors elected nationwide.

He ran on a criminal justice reform platform after a summer of unrest following the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Los Angeles is a heavily Democratic city known for its progressive politics, but Gascón faced criticism from business leaders and prosecutors in his own office for policies that they saw as ineffective to stem rising crime. His moves to sharply restrict when prosecutors can try juveniles as adults or seek life sentences angered victims-rights groups.

Los Angeles County is the most populous in the nation, with roughly 10 million residents.

The outcome of the petition tally has broader political implications.

In the race for Los Angeles mayor, billionaire developer and Republican-turned-Democrat Rick Caruso has been running on a platform to restore safe streets. A Gascón recall election in November almost certainly would have energized more voters receptive to his message, in a contest in which he is running against a progressive favorite, Democratic Rep. Karen Bass.

In the race for state attorney general, Republican challenger Nathan Hochman seized on the result in L.A. to attack his rival, Gascón ally Rob Bonta, the attorney general appointed by Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom.

“Now more than ever, we need a California attorney general to step in to counter … the soft-on-crime approach that endangers everyone,” Hochman said in a statement.

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Recall election aimed at LA prosecutor fails to make ballot