MANHATTAN BEACH, Calif. (KABC) -- There are at least nine candidates running for Los Angeles County district attorney next year, as incumbent DA George Gascón faces challenges that include several prosecutors who currently work for him.
Seven challengers appeared at a Manhattan Beach forum Tuesday night and overwhelmingly the theme focused on why they feel Gascón has to go.
Gascón was elected in 2020 over incumbent Jackie Lacey as he promised a wave of reforms. But once some of those reforms were being implemented, there was a sharp backlash from the public, tying those changes to an increase in crime in the region.
"People are afraid to wear watches," said Jonathan Hatami, a prosecutor in Gascon's office who is among his election challengers. "They're afraid to go to the beach. They're afraid to walk their kids to school."
Gascón has already survived one recall attempt and there may be another next year.
Former LA County DA Steve Cooley was in the audience at the forum and trashed the person who now sits in his former position.
"Horrible! I was with that office for 39 years. Three terms elected DA. Lowest crime rate in 60 years. And to see it wiped out by an ideological, inexperienced fool? It hurts a lot."
Cooley has endorsed former federal prosecutor Nathan Hochman, who has raised the most funds in the race so far.
One of the non-prosecutor challengers is Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Craig Mitchell. He has become known for starting a running club to help people on Skid Row who are getting their lives back together.
The documentary "Skid Row Marathon" was released in 2019 detailing his efforts.
Now he's running for DA - and says he's only doing so because of his criticisms of Gascón.
"I wouldn't be here because I enjoy being a judge," Mitchell said.
Another challenger, former Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeff Chemerinsky, did not appear at the Manhattan Beach forum because he had a campaign event scheduled.
Gascón was invited to the forum but did not appear.
Gascón sat down this week with ABC7's Marc Brown for the latest episode of Eyewitness Newsmakers. He discussed topics including prosecution of retail crime, his bail philosophy, the Palmdale deputy shooting and other issues. You can see the full interview Sunday, Sept. 24 at 11 a.m. on ABC7.