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L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti shifts support to George Gascón in contentious D.A.’s race

L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti
L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti said he is now endorsing George Gascón in the Los Angeles County district attorney’s race. The mayor previously backed incumbent Dist. Atty. Jackie Lacey.
(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said Sunday he is switching his endorsement in the L.A. County district attorney’s race and supporting George Gascón in his bid to unseat incumbent Dist. Atty. Jackie Lacey as the head of the country’s largest prosecutor’s office.

Garcetti was among a number of Southern California politicians who threw their support behind Lacey’s bid for a third term early last year, before Gascón entered the race. But in the wake of nationwide protests calling for criminal justice reforms following the killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, some began to walk back their endorsements of Lacey, who has spent most of her second term under intense scrutiny for declining to prosecute officers in a number of controversial shootings of unarmed men.

The November contest between Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. Jackie Lacey and former San Francisco Dist. Atty. George Gascón to oversee the nation’s largest prosecutor’s office has been framed as a test of appetites for criminal justice reform.

Gascón, who was San Francisco’s district attorney for eight years and served in the Los Angeles Police Department for decades before that, did not prosecute officers in a number of high-profile shootings in the Bay Area either. But Gascón’s record of using restorative justice programs rather than incarceration to deal with nonviolent offenders has made him attractive to progressive leaders, including U.S. Sens. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.

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During a June interview, Garcetti said “it may be” time for a change in leadership in the district attorney’s office, but he had since declined to elaborate. In a statement issued Sunday, the mayor said he was proud to back a candidate who could improve public safety “through partnerships with and beyond law enforcement.”

“George Gascón will help our county shift the burden from the criminal justice system and jails toward diversion, intervention and re-entry programs that save money and save lives,” the statement read. “He is a leader who I have known and trusted for nearly twenty years who can meet this moment.”

Lacey dismissed the endorsement from the mayor of the largest city in her jurisdiction as an attempt by Gascón to distract from his performance in a Saturday night debate, which she termed a “disaster.”

For Garcetti, the move marks his latest attempt to navigate the topic of criminal justice reform. He has repeatedly come under fire from Black Lives Matter organizers and other city activists — most of whom overwhelmingly support Gascón — for the LAPD’s handling of demonstrations this year. But Garcetti is also a frequent target of criticism from law enforcement unions, who have spent millions in support of Lacey’s reelection bid this year.


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