If you vote on anything this election cycle, vote for George Gascón in the District Attorney (DA) race for Los Angeles county. This is where your vote has the potential to impact on who gets prosecuted for what crimes, whether a person who gets charged with a crime will have to post bail, whether a person in the criminal justice system gets drug rehabilitation services, whether the death penalty is applied, and whether to charge police officers who kill unarmed people.
Both candidates – incumbent Jackie Lacey and former San Francisco DA, George Gascón – have made their careers in the criminal justice system, but they have very different visions of the future of LA’s criminal justice system. Lacey has an old-school, rigid tough-on-crime stance, while Gascón is the reform candidate, who is running on a platform of ending mass incarceration, police accountability, prison alternatives, and transparency. Even though Gascón used to be a cop in LA and served as the District Attorney in San Francisco, his record proves his commitment to reform. Law enforcement organizations pumped $3.5 million into Lacey’s reelection campaign, including the $1.2 million from an independent committee organized by the Los Angeles Police Protective League (LAPPL), the LAPD officers’ union. George Gascón refused donations from police unions, and has even worked to bar police unions from contributing in local district attorney races, arguing the donations create a conflict of interest in prosecutions of law enforcement officials. Just recently, Lacey recused herself from investigating the gun-slinging, influencer cop Toni McBride over the fatally shot Daniel Hernandez. The Attorney General said there is likely a conflict of interest – after all, Toni McBride’s father, Jamie McBride, is the director of the LAPPL. Lacey opposed Proposition 64, which legalized recreational marijuana, while Gascón was a leader in the effort to successfully expunge a wide array of marijuana convictions after the passage of Proposition 64. Gascón co-wrote Proposition 47 that turned low-level drug use and other offenses from felonies to misdemeanors, but Lacey opposed it. Gascón wants to end cash bail, while Lacey wouldn’t dream of such a thing. Gascón’s record on actually prosecuting killer cops isn’t actually much better than Lacey’s, but he now favors referring killer cops cases to independent prosecutors. Gascón’s policies are ambitious for a city wracked with scandals in the city council and a milquetoast mayor, but his reform-mindedness and willingness to take on police unions are what we need right now.
Gascón has endorsements from progressives like Patrisse Cullors of Black Lives Matter, Senator Bernie Sanders, San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin, and LA City Councilman Mike Bonin, as well as moderates like Governor Gavin Newsom, Senator Kamala Harris, Senator Maxine Waters, Senator Elizabeth Warren, Congressmember Ayanna Pressley, and United States Secretary Julián Castro.