Backers of San Francisco D.A. Chesa Boudin Recall Raise $1.6M — More than 2X His Supporters

In this Nov. 23, 2020 file photo San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin speaks at a
AP Photo/Jeff Chiu

Organizers of the effort to oust San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin has raised more than double the amount his supporters contributed. Financial disclosures show recall backers have raised $1.6 million dollars compared to Boudin’s supporters, who have raised $650,000.

The financial news comes after recall organizers have cleared a major hurdle to get the recall on the ballot by gathering enough signatures.

Boudin has been under attack almost since his first days in office for his criminal justice reforms, which critics say are really a soft-on-crime policy.

“It’s not just about him,” Jessica Levinson, a professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles who specializes in politics, said in a San Francisco Chronicle article. She said the recall “is about this larger criminal justice movement, and people on both sides know that.”

As an article in the New Yorker reported, Boudin came to his ideology as the son of infamous political radicals Kathy Boudin and David Gilbert. He grew up visiting his parents in jail.

New Yorker profile of Boudin said, in part:

Even by the standards of the criminal-justice-reform movement, he struck visionary notes in his 2019 campaign, calling for decarceration and declaring, on the night he won, “It’s time for radical change to how we envision justice.” Most of all, though, Boudin had San Francisco. The city’s lurid inequalities and radical political tradition meant that there was natural support for politics like his, as well as a district attorney’s office that has often been led by progressives—among them, Kamala Harris. If the country was to try a radical change in how it envisions justice, then surely this was the place.

Progress was quick. Boudin had campaigned on many of the same issues as progressive prosecutors across the country—most famously, Larry Krasner in Philadelphia and Kim Foxx in Chicago—and, in his first weeks in office, Boudin acted quickly on them. His office eliminated cash bail and announced that it would no longer use gang affiliation to seek longer sentences or bring cases in which police pulled over a car as pretext for a drug search. When the pandemic shut down San Francisco, and infections began to rise in prisons around the country, Boudin saw an opportunity for decarceration; by May, 2020, he had cut the city’s jail population from a daily average of about twelve hundred people to about seven hundred.

Former disgraced New York Governor Andrew Cuomo pardoned Gilbert before being forced from office following an investigation of sexual misconduct charges. Gilbert and Kathy Boudin were members of the radical Weather Underground and took part in the robbery of a Brinks armored truck in 1981. Two cops and a security guard died in the attack. Boudin was paroled in 2003.

The Chronicle reported:

At this point in the campaign, it makes sense that the pro-recall side has more money, since they had to garner the support — from paid signature gatherers to campaign ads — to even get on the ballot, Levinson said.

Last month, the Safer SF Without Boudin campaign submitted 83,000 signatures to the Department of Elections— roughly 32,000 more than required to get on the ballot. If the department certifies the signatures this month, an election will likely be held in June and voters will be asked a simple yes or no question: Should Boudin stay in office?

If the majority chooses no, then Mayor London Breed — who has yet to take a position on the recall — will get to choose his replacement.

Andrea Shorter, organizer of the current effort, said it is not true that the recall is a Republican-led campaign. 

“Republicans are concerned and Democrats are concerned,” Shorter said. “They are supporting this effort for the same issues, in terms of the performance of this district attorney and public safety.”

The Chronicle reports that this is the second effort to recall Boudin. The first failed over the summer after organizers did not get enough signatures to qualify for the ballot.

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