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Bernie Sanders endorses former San Francisco prosecutor George Gascón for Los Angeles D.A.

Former San Francisco Dist. Atty. George Gascón  endorsed by Sen. Bernie Sanders
Former San Francisco Dist. Atty. George Gascón received an endorsement from Sen. Bernie Sanders as he tries to unseat Jackie Lacey as Los Angeles’ top prosecutor.
(Michael Macor, The Chronicle)

Former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders threw his support Thursday behind former San Francisco Dist. Atty. George Gascón in his bid to unseat Jackie Lacey as Los Angeles County’s top prosecutor.

The Vermont senator said on Twitter he was endorsing a slate of 10 progressive prosecutors in elections across the country following the killing of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police, which has sparked nationwide protests and calls for criminal justice reform.

“Los Angeles is home to the largest criminal justice jurisdiction and jail in the nation. George is facing a two-term ‘tough on crime’ incumbent who has been criticized by Black Lives Matter and the ACLU for failing to hold officers accountable for excessive use of force,” Sanders said in a statement.

The November runoff between Gascón and Lacey had already been framed as a battle between progressive and traditional approaches to criminal justice reform, a split now crystallized by Floyd’s killing and the nationwide unrest that has followed.

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Lacey, a career prosecutor who has been in office since 2012, has long been a target of Southern California criminal justice activists for her perceived reluctance to charge police officers in controversial use-of-force cases.

While Gascón did not charge any police officers in fatal uses of force during his two terms in office in San Francisco, the former Los Angeles police officer is seen as the reform candidate. A co-author of Proposition 47, which reduced violations for some low-level felonies to misdemeanors, Gascón has also championed ending cash bail and expunged thousands of marijuana convictions in the Bay Area during his time in office.

Property crime increases in San Francisco under Gascón’s tenure, however, have caused some to wonder if his election would damage public safety in Southern California.

Lacey has instituted a number of diversionary programs meant to aid mentally ill and homeless defendants and is supported by law enforcement officials and police unions in Southern California, though violent crime has also increased significantly here during her time in office. She is also backed by many prominent public figures, including Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and Sen. Dianne Feinstein.

Lacey was forced into a runoff with Gascón after a primary that also featured former public defender Rachel Rossi. Some political consultants believe Rossi gained a bump in the polls from energized Sanders voters in March, so his endorsement could carry added significance for Gascón, who needs to capture Rossi’s substantial voter base if he is to unseat Lacey in November.


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