LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Los Angeles County's progressive prosecutor could be tossed from office like his counterpart in San Francisco after opponents on Wednesday said they submitted more than enough signatures to qualify for an election to recall District Attorney George Gascón, who they say is soft on crime.
The campaign spent about $8 million to gather 717,000 signatures they delivered by truck to the Los Angeles Registrar for verification. Even if 20% of signatures are invalidated, which has been typical in California recall efforts, the number would still exceed the required 567,000. That figure reflects 10% of registered voters in the nation's most populous county.
"It was 18 months of dedication and hard work because we knew that this D.A. was not doing this job ... A lot of victims are paying the price of his policies," said Emma Rivas, a volunteer with the recall campaign.
If certified, the election would be the latest in a string of recalls in California that have mostly targeted progressives in a state known for its liberal streak.
Gascón has been under fire from critics virtually since taking office, when he issued a series of directives many have blasted as being soft on crime. The directives include a rule against seeking the death penalty, a ban on transferring juvenile defendants to adult court and prohibitions on filing sentencing-enhancements in most cases.
Gascón has repeatedly defended his policies, saying his stances were well-known during his campaign and his election signified public support of his agenda.
Organizers of the recall effort must have 566,857 valid petition signatures to force a recall election. The group announced recently that it had surpassed that amount, but the petition drive continued, with organizers saying they wanted to gather as many as 700,000 signatures to ensure enough valid names were on the list.
Wednesday is the deadline for the petitions to be turned over to the county.
In a statement Tuesday, recall organizers said residents "have spoken in a resounding way," noting the sheer number of people who have signed petitions and pointing to 37 cities in the county that have taken "no-confidence" votes in Gascón.
"On Wednesday, we will be submitting the required signatures to initiate a recall," according to a statement from the Recall DA George Gascón campaign.
"The sheer magnitude of this effort, and time and investment required to get to this point, show how strong the public desire is to remove George Gascón from office. From day one, this recall has been led by the very victims who Gascón has abandoned, ignored and dismissed. When the recall qualifies, he will not be able to ignore them any longer."
A similar recall effort failed last year.
Gascón has softened on some of his hard-line directives in recent months, and a state appeals court panel recently sided with a lawsuit filed by his own prosecutors trying to block orders against filing sentencing enhancements or prior-strike allegations.
The recall drive gained some late fuel following questions about prosecutors' handling of a criminal case against a man who last month fatally shot two El Monte police officers. Critics said gunman Justin William Flores had a history of arrests but was given a plea deal last year that allowed him to avoid any jail time for possession of a weapon, ammunition and methamphetamine.
Gascón had a news conference to defend the handling of the case, saying the plea deal was appropriate under the circumstances.
Wednesday's deadline for petition signatures comes after a similar recall effort that failed to get enough signatures last year.
In an interview with Eyewitness News on Tuesday, Gascón said we can't keep doing what we've always done in terms of criminal justice. He said he believes we ask too much of our police officers, highlighting that he himself was once a police officer, and he is not anti-law enforcement.
"The recall rules are fairly lax in the state of California, it requires a very low threshold. You don't have to show criminal intent. You don't have to show malfeasance. It's very easy. We don't like you, boom. We want to start a recall," he said. "But, be as it may, I understand the process and we're ready. If they get the signatures, we feel very strongly that we will succeed. If they don't get the signatures, I'm sure there will be another recall attempt."
Last month, San Francisco voters frustrated with a rash of property crimes, including brazen shoplifting caught on video and attacks against Asian American people, drove District Attorney Chesa Boudin, a former public defender, from office. The vote came after a special election that ousted three San Francisco school board members in February.
Gascón, a former San Francisco police chief who then became D.A. in that city, won office in Los Angeles in November 2020 as part of a wave of progressive prosecutors elected nationwide.
He ran on a criminal justice reform platform after a summer of unrest following the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
Gascón said L.A. County residents are rightfully worried about the rise in crime. He added that he is worried as well and shot down the narrative that he favors criminals over victims.
The Associated Press and City News Service contributed to this report.