LA County race for district attorney: Field of candidates challenging Gascón expands to 7

Josh Haskell Image
Wednesday, September 13, 2023
7 candidates now challenging Gascón in race for LA County DA
The primary is less than six months away, but the field vying to replace Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón continues to grow with seven challengers who have entered the race.

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- The primary is less than six months away, but the field vying to replace Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón continues to grow with seven who have filed.

Former Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeff Chemerinsky entered the race Tuesday. He has served as a federal prosecutor since 2014, most recently as head of the violent and organized crime section in Los Angeles.

"The power of the DA's office is so vast and so enormous in terms of its ability to hold people accountable and to make change for the county. It's ability to touch people's lives and that's what ultimately drew me to the job. I also saw a lot of chaos and dysfunction and that people lost confidence in the DA's office and that I could bring an important outside perspective to the job," said Chemerinsky.

The other candidates in the race include Superior Court Judge Craig Mitchell, founder of the Skid Row Running Club; former U.S. Assistant Attorney General Nathan Hochman, who is running as an independent; and four deputy district attorneys: Maria Ramirez, John McKinney who was the prosecutor in the Nipsey Hussle murder trial, Jonathan Hatami who was the prosecutor in the murder trials of Gabriel Fernandez and Anthony Avalos, and Eric Siddall, who leads the union representing Deputy DA's. Siddall entered the race a few weeks ago.

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"I want to modernize and reform the DA's office. I believe we can make us safe with avoiding mass incarceration. We take a very targeted approach at reducing violence, we can do all those things. The problem with George Gascón is he has no experience being a prosecutor. He doesn't know what he's doing and he's filled the ranks with political supporters," said Siddall.

None of the candidates are as progressive as Gascón, with Hochman and Hatami to the right of Siddall and Chemerinsky, who occupy a more moderate democratic approach that could spell trouble for Gascón.

"I think Gascón has left open a huge lane in the center to challenge him and he has shown real weakness both as an administrator and politically in terms of the polling i've seen. the internal, the polling i've seen shows him at sub-Villanueva levels of approval. That's a really bad starting point for a re-elect so I think he's very vulnerable for sure," said Jim Newton, a UCLA Lecturer and the editor of UCLA's Blueprint Magazine.

Name recognition and fundraising will be a challenge for those facing Gascón. Chemerinsky is the son of Erwin Chemerinsky, a well-known legal scholar, but it's unclear how much that will help. Gascón's campaign wouldn't comment on the growing field.

The primary is in march and the top two finishers as long as a candidate doesn't get more than 50% of the vote, regardless of their political party, will move on to the runoff in November of next year.