LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- As the race to replace Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón heats up, candidates are focusing on the future and the needs of the county.
Nine candidates along with Gascón himself attended a debate Thursday night hosted by LA Magazine.
The list of challengers included former federal prosecutors Jeff Chemerinsky and Nathan Hochman, prosecutors Jonathan Hatami, Maria Ramirez, Eric Siddall, and John McKinney, judges Debra Archuleta and Craig Mitchell, and retired judge David Milton.
The candidates jumped into the race during a volatile term for Gascón, who 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.
He's also been accused of being soft on crime with the implementation of a zero bail policy and directives to not prosecute certain cases.
But if Gascón could start this term over, what would he do differently?
"Probably dealing with COVID and how we addressed it," he told ABC7. "There are a lot of things I would do differently today in terms of communication, but there was no blueprint on how to deal with this."
He said those directives that have been criticized "played an important role."
When it comes to communication, some prosecutors in Gascón's office have issues with that, too.
"He came into an office that he was elected to lead and ignored his staff, ignored our opinions. He is ignoring the very people he was elected to lead," said Ramirez, a Boyle Heights native who feels her upbringing sets her apart as she climbed the ranks under Lacey, who promoted her to run the Bureau of Specialized Prosecutions.
Siddall would rather not look back, hoping to modernize the department in the future.
"Building up a division within our office in the Bureau of Investigation that collects intelligence and focuses on the people who are the drivers of crime," he said.
Chemerinsky believes his work prosecuting violent and organized crime at the federal level makes him best suited for the county's current needs.
Fellow and now former federal prosecutor Hochman says he has that and more.
"Thirty-four years of experience that I will pit against George Gascón or any other challenger," said Hochman.
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.