Sep 1, 2022 - News

Where San Francisco's midterm district attorney race stands

John Hamasaki and Brooke Jenkins headshots side by side.
From left to right: John Hamasaki, Brooke Jenkins and Joe Alioto Veronese. Photos courtesy of their respective campaigns

San Francisco voters will decide in November if Brooke Jenkins, the mayor-appointed district attorney, will retain her role as the city's top prosecutor.

Why it matters: San Franciscans are divided over crime and policing in the city, and the role of the DA is to decide whether to file criminal charges and the severity of those indictments.

State of play: Jenkins faces two key opponents, both of whom previously worked on the police commission: John Hamasaki and Joe Alioto Veronese, grandson of former SF Mayor Joseph Alioto. Maurice Chenier is also running for the seat, according to the city's department of elections.

  • Jenkins was appointed in July following Boudin's recall. As the public face of the recall effort, Jenkins has been mired in controversy since her appointment due to the firing of staffers, a six-figure-salary disclosure from a nonprofit linked to Boudin's recall, and a report that Mayor London Breed's office has been too "hands-on" since Jenkins took office.
  • Hamasaki, a vocal critic of law enforcement, has the support of progressive SF District Supervisor Dean Preston.
  • Jenkins has an endorsement from state Sen. Scott Wiener, while Alioto Veronese recently earned public support from the San Francisco Building and Construction Trades Council.
  • Meanwhile, Hamasaki's campaign is run by Boudin's former campaign manager, and he's likely to attract many progressive voters.

By the numbers: Overall crime in San Francisco is on the decline.

  • Violent crime fell 24.3% between 2017 and 2021, city data shows. Property crimes dropped 24.2% during that timeframe.
  • Yes, but: Burglaries, for example, increased about 39.5% during the same period.

Public safety is the top priority for Hamasaki, Jenkins and Alioto Veronese, they each told Axios.

What they're saying:

Hamasaki: "We have to have policies that are focused on public safety while also respecting the due process rights of people that are charged with crimes, so you set everybody in the criminal justice system up for success," he tells Axios.

  • What people need, he says, are services to help with mental health and substance abuse disorders, and job training.
  • Wage theft is another priority for Hamasaki, who says he would expand the city's economic crimes unit so corporations and other employers "are held accountable for stealing from workers."

Alioto Veronese: "My platform will be to go after … the drug dealers, the violent criminals, the petty thieves who are out there just terrorizing our Walgreens and CVS', " he tells Axios.

  • "Then it's vigorously working on criminal justice reform," he says, noting the legal system has targeted and "oppress[ed] people of color for years."

Jenkins: "...Crime in San Francisco has reached a point of it being out of control … And people want that to change, and to return to the place where there's accountability and where we're functioning as a deterrent to criminal behavior," she tells Axios.

  • Jenkins is prosecuting drug cases at a similar rate to Boudin, Mission Local reports. In a statement, Jenkins' office said, "The DA is not looking to criminalize substance abuse."

Of note: Having a DA who is independent of the mayor's office is a major talking point for both Hamasaki and Alioto Veronese.

  • Jenkins pushed back at the characterization that the mayor's office is running the show, calling the accusation against her "utter nonsense."

Between the lines: "This race is pretty wide open," Jim Ross, a political consultant who worked on Boudin's anti-recall campaign, tells Axios. That's in part due to the city using ranked-choice voting, where voters have the option to rank all candidates in a race.

  • "If Jenkins makes another misstep or the other candidates get some momentum, she could be another short-term DA appointed by the mayor," Ross says.
  • Political consultant Sam Singer forecasts that Hamasaki will win the voters on the left, while Jenkins and Alioto Veronese "will battle it out for the liberal to moderate vote."

What's next: Voters will decide on Nov. 8 which candidate will finish out Boudin's term, which ends in January 2024.

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