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L.A. County district attorney’s race is a political and ideological battle. Here’s what you need to know

Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. Jackie Lacey is trying to keep her office in a race against former San Francisco Dist. Atty. George Gascon.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times; Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)

Los Angeles County voters will decide Tuesday one of the most pivotal races for district attorney in years, a political and ideological showdown that could bring major changes to the criminal justice system.

The candidates

Jackie Lacey, the two-term incumbent who oversees the office she’s worked in since the late 1980s, has long tried to improve treatment for mentally ill defendants and tried to position herself as a reformer on other issues. But her reputation is that of a punishment-first prosecutor. While she’s beloved by the law enforcement community, Lacey’s tenure has been marked by a perceived hesitance to charge powerful figures and police officers who use deadly force, earning her the scorn of local activist groups.

George Gascón, the former San Francisco district attorney and assistant chief of the Los Angeles Police Department, has emerged as one of the leaders of a movement to elect progressive prosecutors, aiming to lower crime while reducing the number of people affected by the criminal justice system. His ideas have been hailed by some, but a surge of property crimes in San Francisco has led detractors to claim his election in L.A. would endanger public safety.

Rachael Rossi is a former public defender who says her experience allows her to better identify those who need help rather than jail time.

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Los Angeles Dist. Atty. Jackie Lacey, left, and challengers former San Francisco D.A. George Gascón and former public defender Rachel Rossi attend a debate at the Aratani Theatre at the Japanese American Cultural & Community Center in Los Angeles on Jan. 29.
(Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

The issues

Primer: How Jackie Lacey’s and George Gascón’s time in office shapes the L.A. County D.A.'s race
Lacey and Gascón combine for more than 60 years of experience in law enforcement, yet their visions to run the nation’s largest local prosecutor’s office couldn’t be more different. The Times reviewed crime data, filing rates and other metrics to compare their respective terms in Los Angeles and San Francisco

Money: Police unions, justice reformers battle for dollars in bitter L.A. County D.A. race
The donations represent the political canyon between Lacey and Gascón — law enforcement unions on one side, progressive donors on the other.

Policy: In Los Angeles County D.A.’s race, it’s reform vs. tradition. Where does each candidate stand?
From homelessness to the death penalty, the three candidates have very different views on the issues.

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More coverage

Jackie Lacey grew up in South L.A. But in a tough D.A.'s race, her opponents are encroaching on her home turf

Candidates trade punches in distruptive debate.

Sandy Banks: For some black Angelenos, the Jackie Lacey glow has dimmed as she seeks reelection as D.A.

Former public defender Rachel Rossi joins the race.

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The Los Angeles Times editorial endorsement


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