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Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón (D) is facing a second recall attempt as critics argue that his progressive policies are too soft on crime, making him the latest California prosecutor in recent months to face the possibility of a recall.
Gascón, who was elected in 2020 after beating out two-term incumbent Jackie Lacey (D), initially stopped his prosecutors from filing sentence enhancements, trying minors as adults or seeking the death penalty.
But the Los Angeles County prosecutor has since reversed his position on some of those stances amid criticism, or had a court strike down his policies.
715,833 signatures have been collected by the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk, according to a raw count announced last weekend, which capped off the first step in their review of petitions.
Several more steps must be successfully completed before Los Angeles County residents are ultimately asked whether Gascón should be ousted. The earliest a possible recall could take place would be Nov. 8.
Here’s a look at who Gascón is and why he’s being recalled.
Who is George Gascón?
As the Los Angeles County district attorney, Gascón is essentially the top prosecutor in the county. He was a former police chief in Mesa, Ariz., and San Francisco; an assistant chief of the Los Angeles Police Department; and also San Francisco’s district attorney.
The Los Angeles County district attorney had been elected in 2020, months after the death of George Floyd, a Black man that died after a white Minneapolis police officer kneeled on his neck for more than nine minutes, reigniting protests nationwide about police brutality and racial justice.
Among some of his key policies at the time were not trying minors as adults and not seeking the death penalty, according to The Associated Press. His Democratic challenger and two-term incumbent Jackie Lacey (D) was unpopular among members of the Black Lives Matter group.
Why is Gascón being recalled?
There is a second attempt to recall Gascón because backers of the effort argue he is too soft on crime, arguing that “criminals feel emboldened, residents unsafe, and victims abandoned” and claiming that he has failed to prosecute a slew of crimes.
The Los Angeles County prosecutor came under scrutiny last month, for example, regarding a suspect who had shot and killed two El Monte, Calif., police officers in June.
The man, Justin William Flores, was given a 2021 plea deal, serving 20 days in jail and given a two-year probation sentence after being found in possession of a firearm, according to NBC Los Angeles. Flores had been previously arrested several times.
The 35-year-old man shot the two officers in June, and the parent of one of the officers who died in the line of duty faulted Gascón for the two men’s deaths.
“We had an individual who was drug-addicted for many years,” Gascón said during a news conference in defense of his handling of Flores’s case, according to NBC Los Angeles.
“He had been arrested multiple times for a variety of low-level offenses. (Last year’s) case was a case where he stole a television when he broke into his grandparents’ house, and he was high at the time. He went through a lengthy period of time without any contact with the criminal justice system.”
He argued that “the outcome was appropriate under the circumstances.”
What’s the latest on the recall effort?
Last week, the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk announced that there was a raw count of 715,833 signatures received in a petition to recall Gascón, capping off the first step required in their review of the petition to oust the Los Angeles County prosecutor.
Officials announced on Thursday that a random sample of five percent of the signatures gathered met their threshold to have the signatures of the petition verified.
“Because the number of verified valid signatures fell between these thresholds, a full check of all signatures submitted must be completed no later than August 17,” according to the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk.
A minimum of 566,857 valid signatures are needed for the recall effort, according to the Los Angeles Times.
“If the petition meets the sufficiency requirement, the RR/CC must certify sufficiency to the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors at its next regular meeting,” according to the county clerk.
The earliest a recall could take place would be Nov. 8.
Why is it important?
The recall effort comes amid a noted shift among Democrats nationwide in their efforts to address policing and crime amid growing voter concerns over skyrocketing violence around the country. Republicans have seized on the issue, along with other hot-button concerns like inflation, in an effort to put Democrats even more on the defensive in a year that generally favors the party that doesn’t control the White House.
A recall effort in L.A. County would follow a successful one that was waged against former San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin (D), another progressive prosecutor who was also claimed accused of being too soft on crime.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) faced a recall effort last year as well, though it ultimately proved unsuccessful. Newsom has also been floated as a possible 2024 presidential contender.
Should the recall take place on Nov. 8, it would happen alongside other midterm elections, including a Los Angeles mayoral runoff between challengers Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.) and billionaire Rick Caruso.
Caruso has backed a recall effort against Gascón, including offering some financial help, according to KABC-TV.
When Bass was asked last week if she would be campaigning with him or for him as he endured an attempt to have him recalled, she said her focus would instead be on her mayoral race.
“I’m not going to be focused on the recall, but, you know, the recall has to pass the most significant hurdle: Will it even qualify? We don’t know if that is even going to be the case. And I will tell you that it is doubtful from what I’ve talked to people, it is doubtful that the recall will qualify. But if it does, my focus is going to be on the mayor’s race,” she told Fox 11.