Even with low approval rating, large field of candidates in race for LA DA helps George Gascón

Josh Haskell Image
Monday, February 26, 2024
How large field of candidates in LA DA's race is helping George Gascón
Gascón has survived two recall attempts and is still supported by many progressive Democrats, but criticism that he is soft on crime and the feeling by some that the county is less safe brought Gascón many impressive challengers.

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Voting is underway in the primary for Los Angeles County District Attorney, and the large field with 12 candidates could help incumbent George Gascón, even though a poll released earlier this month by Cal Poly Pomona, Cal State University Long Beach, and the University of Southern California found 51% of voters disapprove of the job he's doing.

Who's going up against Gascón?

  • Deputy District Attorney John McKinney
  • Deputy District Attorney Jonathan Hatami
  • Deputy District Attorney Eric Siddall
  • Deputy District Attorney Maria Ramirez
  • Former Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeff Chemerinsky
  • Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Debra Archuleta
  • Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Craig Mitchell
  • Former federal prosecutor Nathan Hochman
  • Retired Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge David Milton
  • Defense Attorney Dan Kapelovitz
  • San Bernardino County Deputy District Attorney Lloyd "Bobcat" Mason

"The large field is the best thing that's ever happened to [Gascón] for sure," said Jim Newton, a UCLA lecturer and the editor of Blueprint Magazine. "In a sense that it offers him a, not an unimpeded, but a fairly clear route to the runoff. With that many candidates, 15, 20% gets you the runoff. I think Gascón, barring something catastrophic between now and Election Day, he can probably count on that. He can get re-elected with a very low approval rating based more on the structure of the campaign than on his popularity."

That same poll of likely voters in the DA race found a staggering 64% are undecided. The margin of error for this poll is 5.9%

Gascón has survived two recall attempts and is still supported by many progressive Democrats, but criticism that he is soft on crime and the feeling by some that the county is less safe brought Gascón many impressive challengers.

Former candidate for Los Angeles Mayor and businessman Rick Caruso, a critic of Gascón, endorsed two candidates to move onto the runoff - Siddall and Chemerinsky.

What do candidates think about Prop 47?

Some of the biggest issues in the race include whether to charge juveniles as adults, retail theft and whether to repeal Prop 47, which reduced punishment for low-level theft and drug offenses by raising the threshold for charging a crime as a misdemeanor instead of as a felony.

Candidates faced off last month in a debate sponsored by Los Angeles Magazine where they were asked about Prop 47.

"It is basically a license to steal for juveniles just under $950. Look what happened recently at Ruben's bakery where you had over 100 juveniles go into a bakery on January 2nd and steal everything in sight because they knew George Gascón's DA's office would not prosecute, so I would modify," said Hochman.

READ MORE | Street takeover in Compton leads to wild break-in at Mexican bakery

Video shows dozens of young men and women ransacking a Compton bakery, leaving the business in total disarray.

Hatami said the proposition didn't make schools or neighborhoods safer, noting that he did not vote for it.

"It does need to be amended," he said. "We have to bring that threshold down. I'm not running for DA of Texas. I'm not running for DA of New York. I'm running for DA of Los Angeles, and we have a major concern with retail theft and smash and grab burglaries."

"Thirty-seven states throughout the country have a higher threshold for felonies than the $950 felony threshold in California," said Chemerinsky. "Texas has a threshold of $2,500 for a felony. I don't believe changing the threshold, which used to be $400 and it has increased to $950, I don't believe that that has contributed to rising property crime."

"There are people who use Prop 47 in a hysterical way as though the world is ending and it basically stopped us from being able to do criminal justice in L.A.," said Siddall. "That is not accurate. We do not need to repeal it, but we need to change it as it applies to repeat offenders."

"The reality is that when Prop 47 passed in 2014, crime continued to go down at record levels, and there has been multiple studies concerning Prop 47," said Gascon. "Not a single study has found causation between the threshold between a misdemeanor and a felony on Prop 47 and any type of crime."

Ramirez believes one of the issues Prop 47 does not address and "does not help us" is repeat offenders that keep getting arrested and let out without any prosecution.

There will be a runoff after the primary if a candidate doesn't receive more than 50% of the vote, which is unlikely due to the number of candidates.