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Recap: LA County DA Debate Was Contentious -- And Disrupted

From left to right: DA Jackie Lacey, George Gascon and Rachel Rossi. (Gary Coronado/Los Angeles Times © 2020)
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On Wednesday night the three candidates running for Los Angeles County District Attorney faced off in a debate: incumbent DA Jackie Lacey, former San Francisco DA George Gascon, and former federal public defender Rachel Rossi.

It was a raucous night, with Black Lives Matter activists, relatives of people shot by police and others frequently disrupting the proceedings with chants of "Jackie Lacey must go," while her supporters -- many of them deputy D.A.'s -- called back, "We love you, Jackie."

Jerome Kitchen, 31, of Los Angeles, who is against DA Jackie Lacey being reelected, interrupted the debate. (Gary Coronado/Los Angeles Times)

But as co-moderator Libby Denkmann, KPCC's politics reporter, pointed out to the crowd, this was the first time all three candidates had appeared together on stage. The evening offered voters a chance to hear from the candidates on record in a race that has garnered national attention, as this is the latest — and largest — battleground in a national push to get reformist DA's elected.

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So what were some of the main takeaways?

  • Gascon and Rossi leaned into the need to tackle systemic racism in the criminal justice system, while Lacey tried to straddle more of a middle ground.
  • Lacey tried to paint Gascon and Rossi as unqualified, in particular noting that Gascon had never worked as a litigator and calling his tenure as San Francisco DA a failure.
  • While Rossi and Gascon both said they will end cash bail, Rossi criticized Gascon for not doing so during his nearly nine years as San Francisco DA.
  • Gascon claimed Lacey hasn't invested nearly enough resources into diverting people with mental health issues away from jail.