San Francisco's popular district attorney George Gascon unexpectedly announced last fall that he would not be seeking a third term. But now, just as unexpectedly, he's apparently been making preparations for a campaign for the DA's job in Los Angeles.
The news comes via the New York Times, which spoke to "an associate with knowledge of his plans," and while Gascon reportedly has not made a final decision yet, he's been meeting with various local groups in LA and looks very likely to run for the job. His opponent would be the incumbent Jackie Lacey, who was elected LA's first African American and first female DA back in 2012.
Lacey has disappointed progressives with some of her stances on criminal justice, and notably she continues to pursue capital cases despite Governor Newsom's moratorium on the death penalty. As the Times notes, Lacey's tenure in the DA's office has stood in stark contrast to Gascon's, and Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors goes as far as to say the two cities are "polar opposites" when it comes to criminal justice.
This may leave an opening for Gascon to unseat Lacey, and return to the city where he was once a police officer in the 1990s. He later got a law degree and ultimately became chief of police in Phoenix, Arizona before landing the police-chief job in San Francisco in 2009. He would only hold that position for two years before District Attorney Kamala Harris named him as her successor when she was elected Attorney General of California.
And his reasons for seeking the same job he had here could involve family — he has not commented on this thus far, obviously, but the reason he stated for not seeking reelection back in October was that his 90-year-old mother was in weakening health. "It became clear that launching a re-election campaign would not be compatible with taking care of her adequately in this moment of need," he said in a statement. "As her son, I must meet that obligation." Given his background in the LAPD, it's not a stretch to guess that mom lives around there, which might make running such a campaign down south preferable to him right now.
It sounds like Gascon already has the endorsement of Black Lives Matter, with Cullors telling the Times that Gascon has "been very clear that he wants to end mass incarceration in Los Angeles." She adds, "He’s been very clear that he wants to hold law enforcement accountable. He has been very clear that he does not want to lock up people with mental illness." Back in February, Cullors published an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times calling out Lacey's practices, and saying that the upcoming DA's race is "the single most important DA race in the country." In that op-ed, she name-dropped Gascon among progressive DAs who have supported bail reform.
We should know soon if Gascon is throwing his hat in the ring, and it will then remain to be seen if Los Angeles voters are looking for a more progressive DA, or if they like Lacey's more aggressive prosecutorial style.
Related: District Attorney Candidates Talk Crime, Punishment, and Replacing Gascón In Debate