SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Residents of San Francisco voted Tuesday to recall progressive prosecutor Chesa Boudin after a heated campaign that captivated the country and bitterly divided Democrats over crime, policing and public safety reform in the famous liberal city.
Recall proponents cheered the news at a victory party, with California state leaders from the hotel and retailer associations touting Boudin’s removal as a sign that visitors, shoppers and workers are once again getting priority in a city that relies heavily on tourism.
“This election does not mean that San Francisco has strayed to the far right in our approach to criminal justice,” Mary Jung, chair of the recall campaign, said in a statement. “In fact, San Francisco has been a national beacon for progressive criminal justice reform for decades and will continue to do so with new leadership.”
Boudin, 41, was the first political candidate to narrowly win in November 2019 as part of a national wave of progressive prosecutors who vowed to seek alternatives to incarceration, end the racist war on drugs and hold police officers accountable.
But his tenure coincided with a frustrating and terrifying pandemic in which viral images of brutal shoplifting and attacks on Asian-American people led some residents to launch a recall of the former public defender and son of left-wing activists.
Partial returns Tuesday night showed about 60% of voters supported the recall, but Boudin remained defiant in a speech to supporters, saying he was outnumbered by “right-wing billionaires”. He said voters were understandably frustrated by the pandemic and a city government that has failed to provide security, housing and justice.
“We have two cities. We have two legal systems. We have one for the wealthy and the well-connected and another for everyone else. And that’s exactly what we’re fighting for,” he said.
Read more: Chesa Boudin’s recall concerns more than one accuser
Mayor London Breed, who had backed a more moderate Democrat in the 2019 prosecutor’s race, will name Boudin’s replacement after the results are certified by the election office and approved by the Board of Supervisors, likely by the end of the year. the month.
Boudin’s tenure was marked by a blood-curdling fight with the San Francisco Police Department, who accused his office of withholding evidence in a case against an officer. Boudin said police often fail to bring thorough cases to the DA’s office for prosecution, making arrests in only 5% of cases. He made headlines when he revealed that police had used DNA collected from a rape to arrest the victim in an unrelated property crime.
Recall proponents said Boudin was ideologically inflexible and inexperienced, often siding with criminals rather than victims. Opponents of the recall said the recall was a Republican coup designed to undermine public security reforms.
San Francisco has long struggled with open drug trafficking, vandalism, car theft and home burglaries. Political pundits say the political newcomer who narrowly won in 2019 was in the crosshairs of outside forces that made him an easy target for public frustration.
Boudin was a baby when his parents, left-wing radicals from Weather Underground, served as drivers in a botched 1981 New York robbery that killed two police officers and a security guard. They were sentenced to decades in prison.
While campaigning, he spoke of the pain of stepping through metal detectors to hug his parents and vowed to reform a system that tears families apart. Kathy Boudin was released on parole in 2003 and died of cancer in May. David Gilbert was released on parole in October.
Boudin’s recall was supported by many of the same people who successfully ousted three liberal members of the San Francisco school board in February. However, California Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom easily defeated a Republican-led recall last year.
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