Former DA Steve Cooley, one of the recall organizers, called the campaign ‘a Herculean effort with a lot of moving parts to obtain the signatures’
By SCOTT SCHWEBKE | Orange County Register
Campaign organizers seeking to recall embattled Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón submitted 717,000 signatures to election officials Wednesday, July 6, hoping to force an election that could oust him after less than two years on the job.
A group of sign-waving recall supporters, many of them families of murder victims critical of Gascon’s policies, greeted a truck that delivered the petitions to the Los Angeles County Registrar’s Office in Norwalk. Supporters need 566,857 signatures — representing 10% of the total registered voters in the county at the time of the November 2020 election that Gascon won — to qualify the recall for the ballot.
Supporters hope the extra signatures will provide a sufficient cushion to allow for disqualified signatures.
“It was a Herculean effort with a lot of moving parts to obtain the signatures,” said former Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley, who is co-chairman of campaign to recall Gascon.
30 days to verify signatures
The county will have 30 days to verify the signatures before scheduling a recall vote.
“They are still determining whether they will count the entire submission, or only a 5% sample batch,” campaign spokesman Tim Lineberger said. “If the recall ultimately qualifies, it would likely take place in a special election early next year. For it to appear on the November ballot, the process would likely need to be expedited.”
If the recall issue qualifies, the same ballot will ask voters to choose a replacement candidate for district attorney. The candidate with the most votes would capture the election outright without a runoff election.
While the initial campaign to recall Gascón fizzled early last year due to a lack of signatures and the onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic, the rebooted effort that began in October has received a groundswell of public support and endorsements from unlikely political corners.
The Los Angeles Association of Deputy District Attorneys, the Los Angeles Police Protective League, the Los Angeles County Professional Peace Officers Association along with county Supervisor Kathryn Barger have endorsed the recall.
“I typically support election outcomes as a way of respecting the public’s right to choose, but our D.A.’s policies have led to disastrous consequences,” Barger said in a statement issued in May. “Public safety in L.A. County has visibly deteriorated. I believe Gascón must be replaced with someone that is committed to championing victims’ rights, safety and justice.”
In a stunning reversal, former Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck withdrew his support for Gascón, saying the public would be better served by a district attorney who “emphasizes the rights of victims and the safety of our police officers.”
Gascón did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday, directing inquiries to his campaign spokesperson.
“We are waiting to hear the official count of validated signatures,” Elise Moore, his spokesperson, said in an email. “This will likely take several weeks. In the meantime, we remain focused on the work of keeping communities safe and creating a more equitable justice system, as we have been since day one.”
Reform has ‘broad support’
Cristine Soto DeBerry, executive director of the Prosecutors Alliance of California, said the recall effort is being bankrolled by “fringe conservatives, political operatives, and mega-donors” that support former President Donald Trump and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.
“Criminal justice reform has broad support from people across the political spectrum as voters know the status quo has failed them on every level,” DeBerry said in a statement. “This is a system defined by soaring rates of recidivism, shocking levels of racial disparities and wasteful spending of taxpayer money. It is a system that created a revolving door from the streets to our jails and prisons while ignoring the underlying problems that drive crime in the first place.”
DeBerry added that Gascón, who served 30 years with the LAPD and previously as San Francisco district attorney, was elected to prioritize “safety, accountability, healing and justice.”
“He has reduced violent crime in every leadership position he has held, and his proven leadership is an asset to Los Angeles County,” DeBerry said. “He kept his promises to voters when he refused to walk a path long defined by failure. The voters will stand by the values and vision he is fighting for.”
Earlier this month, in a text soliciting funds from supporters,” Gascón warned what will happen if the recall succeeds.
“If they’re successful, they will reverse all our progress,” Gascón said. “We can’t allow Republican donors to circumvent the democratic process by executing a political power grab in LA.”
61 directives at issue
Gascón, who took office in December 2020, has issued 61 directives that his critics maintain are friendly to criminal defendants. Among them are the elimination of cash bail and sentence enhancements and an end to the prosecution of juveniles in the adult court system, regardless of the seriousness of the crime. He has since walked back some of his directives.
Some prosecutors also have criticized what they view as Gascón’s cozy relationship with the Los Angeles County Public Defender’s Office, noting that he has hired several defense attorneys from that office for prestigious, high-paying jobs in his administration. Detractors have branded his top lieutenants as political operatives who are unqualified for the positions they hold.
Gascón’s policies also have sparked a lawsuit from the Association of Deputy District Attorneys, which represents about 800 Los Angeles County prosecutors, and have drawn a rebuke from law enforcement agencies and officials in 36 cities who have cast no-confidence votes against him.
“The district attorney’s approach to criminal justice reform isn’t working,” said Eric Siddall, vice president of the ADDA. “We need to move forward in a new direction, one that prioritizes public safety and sustainable, responsible reform over self-promotion and stubbornness. Whether that happens in the next few months or two years is in the registrar’s hands.”
Source: Los Angeles Daily News