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Criminal Justice

Effort To Recall LA DA Gascón Fails; Backers Vow To Try Again

A close-up of white-haired Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascón
L.A. District Attorney George Gascón.
(Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
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They say they will try again. Opponents of L.A. District Attorney George Gascón conceded defeat Thursday in their effort to gather enough signatures for a recall vote, but promised they will try again at the end of the year.

“In the interest of continuing the effort to restore public safety in Los Angeles County by recalling District Attorney George Gascón, victims and volunteer leaders from the original recall Gascón campaign have formed a new committee,” the leaders of the group said in a statement.

Supporters of the Gascón recall had until Oct. 26 to gather the signatures of more than 580,000 registered voters to place the recall on a ballot. They’d only gathered about 200,000 as of this week, according to a source close to the campaign.

Organizers blamed “pandemic mandates and a premature start” for the failed campaign. They began the effort just five months after Gascón took office last December and unveiled a sweeping agenda that included lowering prison sentences for people convicted of crimes and no longer seeking gun and gang sentencing enhancements.

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Some saw his election as a huge win for criminal justice reform.

But almost immediately, Gascón faced angry opposition from deputy DA’s within his office and some families of crime victims. The recall’s backers — including its most prominent supporter, L.A. Sheriff Alex Villanueva — convinced 30 of the county’s 88 cities to hold “no confidence” votes against Gascón.

The Effort Didn't Raise Enough Money

The recall campaign needed at least $5 million to hire enough people to gather the signatures, but only raised about $1 million, according to campaign finance records. One source said donors were reluctant to give money to an effort so hastily organized.

“The reset will allow Recall District Attorney George Gascón to gather necessary financial resources prior [emphasis in the original] to starting the 160-day period for signature collection, rather than play catch up,” according to the statement.

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Opponents of San Francisco's reformist DA, Chesa Boudin, are trying the same strategy as Gascón's critics after failing to collect enough signatures on a recall petition earlier this year. Some analysts have predicted they will be successful.

Gascón has cast the recall campaign against him as an almost exclusively Republican-funded effort to overturn the will of the voters. One of its biggest backers was a supporter of President Donald Trump.

One question is whether police unions will join the fight. The unions that represent L.A. County Sheriff’s deputies and LAPD officers staunchly opposed Gascón during last year’s election, but sat out the recall effort.

Any new campaign would come in the wake of the defeat of the recall of Gov. Gavin Newsom and in a year when there will be intense focus on both the mid-term congressional elections and Villanueva’s reelection bid.

What questions do you have about criminal justice and public safety in Southern California?
Frank Stoltze covers a new movement for criminal justice reform at a time when not everybody shares the same vision.