Jun 8, 2022 - Politics & Policy

San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin recalled

San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin looks on during a news conference on May 10, 2022.
San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin during a news conference earlier this year. Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

San Francisco voters recalled District Attorney Chesa Boudin after a divisive election over the prosecutor's handling of crime, per the Associated Press.

Why it matters: Boudin's recall may spell trouble for progressive prosecutors across the country as they increasingly facing scrutiny from voters amid rising crime rates.

What's next: San Francisco Mayor London Breed will appoint a temporary replacement to serve until a permanent district attorney is elected in November.

State of play: Boudin's recall was introduced on April 2021, when supporters of the effort slammed Boudin as being too soft on crime.

  • "Boudin is not keeping San Francisco safe. He refuses to adequately prosecute criminals and fails to take the drug dealing crisis seriously," recall supporters said in their Notice of Intent.
  • Boudin said the recall effort is "unfair" during an interview with The SF Minute, adding that "every single one of [the recall’s] ads has lies in it — every one."
  • Though crime has fallen since Boudin took office, burglaries and homicides have gone up in San Francisco during the past two years, the Wall Street Journal reports.

The big picture: Boudin was elected in 2019 as a "progressive prosecutor," vowing to reduce incarcerations and refine law enforcement practices in San Francisco.

  • Boudin, who grew up visiting his parents in prison, is a former public defender.
  • As district attorney, he filed San Francisco's first homicide charges against a police officer for an on-duty shooting and pursued efforts to send nonviolent drug offenders to treatment centers rather than jail, per the Journal.
Chesa Boudin speaks last night.
Chesa Boudin speaks to supporters at a restaurant in San Francisco on Tuesday night. Photo: Nick Bastone/Axios San Francisco

What he's saying: "People [in San Francisco] are angry. They're frustrated. And I want to be very clear about what happened tonight: The right-wing billionaires outspent us three to one," Boudin told supporters.

  • "They exploited an environment in which people are appropriately upset. And they created an electoral dynamic where we were literally shadowboxing," he added.
  • "Voters were not asked to choose between criminal justice reform and something else. They were given an opportunity to voice their frustration and their outrage and they took that opportunity."

The bottom line: Boudin's defeat may be a sign that even in California, criminal justice reform "can be taken too far," Steve Wagstaffe, a district attorney in San Mateo County, told the Journal.

Editor's note: This article has been updated with comment from Chesa Boudin.

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