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San Francisco district attorney ousted in recall election

Voters have recalled San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin in a blow to a national movement toward more lenient prosecution.

Boudin was toppled by a campaign fueled by crime concerns and funded by business groups. Former prosecutors from his office had publicly joined the recall push, lending credibility to the recall effort.



The result is likely to reverberate far beyond San Francisco. Opponents of criminal justice reform and Republicans seeking to depict Democrats as weak on public safety will likely cite Boudin’s rejection in a deeply liberal city as evidence that voters are balking at efforts to ease sentencing and reduce incarceration.

That is not to say San Francisco — or California — is prepared to revert to a tough-on-crime approach that filled the state’s prisons beyond capacity in recent decades. But Boudin was one of the leading figures in a national network of prosecutors, from Philadelphia to Chicago to parts of California, seeking to break with past models of punishing crime. Opponents of Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascón, Boudin’s ally and predecessor, are collecting signatures for a recall as well.

Data show Boudin sent a greater share of cases to pretrial diversion than his predecessors. Some property crimes spiked during the first part of his tenure, which coincided with the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, and homicides rose in parallel with a national increase. Boudin’s foes also seized on viral videos of brazen incidents of shoplifting and smash-and-grab robberies, which were amplified by conservative media.

San Francisco Mayor London Breed will now get to appoint Boudin’s successor, broadening the Democratic mayor’s record of reshaping city governance. A ballot measure that would have curtailed Breed’s appointment powers by barring mayoral picks from running for another term appeared headed to defeat.

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