Who Will Replace Chesa Boudin? Just Follow the Money
A billionaire conservative and his GOP pals spent $7 million on a campaign to convince San Franciscans to recall District Attorney Chesa Boudin. They were helped by a steady drumbeat of negative press, which blamed Boudin for all the crime and homelessness in San Francisco, the same problems we’ve had for decades. But people love a scapegoat, and the corporate press fed them whatever they wanted, it seems.
‘I want to be very clear about what happened tonight. The right-wing billionaires outspent us three to one.”
– Chesa Boudin on election night.
Anyone who bothered to look at the actual crime numbers knows that crime did not increase under Chesa, who by the way, has only been DA for 2 years. In San Francisco, from 2019–21, rape, robbery, and assault decreased by 47% (-191), 27% (-851), and 6% (-160), respectively. So, violent crime (which the SFPD categorizes as homicide, rape, robbery, and assault) decreased by 19% (-1187). Property crime over that period decreased by 11% (-6083).
It’s hard to say how accurate this crime data is, considering it is reported by the San Francisco Police Department…but more on that later.
What really changed were the targets of crime, not the volume. The burglars who run around the city at night smashing car windows have historically targetted tourists and rental cars, overwhelmingly, and for decades. Why? Because tourists are easy targets, they travel with all their stuff, and are far less likely to stick around to track down their stolen goods, they turn in their rental cars with broken windows, and literally fly away.
But the total number of tourists in SF was down 61.0 percent in 2020, there were just 10.2 million visitors to the city that pandemic year, down from a record high of 26.2 million in 2019. So what did the burglars do when there weren’t any marks in Fisherman’s Wharf to rob? They started targeting SF residents, usually in affluent neighborhoods like the Marina, North Beach, and Cow Hollow.
And when rich important people get robbed, there will be hell to pay, and pay they did. Millions in recall pamphlets, attack ads, and misguided stories in the press blaming the DA for all the crime. Despite Chesa doing exactly what he campaigned on doing. It wasn’t that there were more robberies and more criminals on the streets, it was that the wrong people were getting robbed.
DA Boudin campaigned on holding bad cops accountable and focusing on rehabilitating criminals as opposed to punishing them with long prison sentences. Two things the cops absolutely hate, and two things progressives insist that they support.
Chesa also campaigned on ending cash bail, not charging minors as adults, prioritizing diversion over prison, and not enforcing the infamous ‘3 strikes law’, all promises he made good on.
But the minute Boudin made good on his promise of prosecuting bad cops for beating unarmed civilians or shooting unarmed suspects, the police turned on him. No SF DA had ever followed up on multiple prosecutions against bad cops before, and perhaps non ever will again, after this recall.
But when the police hate the DA, things can get toxic real fast. The San Francisco Police Department’s clearance rate dropped to its lowest level in a decade: 8.1 percent in 2021. Meaning for every 12 crimes reported to the police, the SFPD only registers one arrest (on property crimes, it registers an arrest in roughly every 16th case). That serves as the backdrop for story after story about cops attempting to talk citizens out of reporting crimes (“The DA won’t prosecute!”); cops looking on while burglars clear out a business; or blowing off crime victims and eyewitnesses who are forced to take matters into their own hands.
(Most of the links just above are from Mission Local, they do great crime reporting btw).
So now what? 60% of the votes cast want Boudin out, so who is going to ride in to save San Francisco? Mayor London Breed will choose his interim replacement, and soon. Boudin will be removed from office 10 days after the Board of Supervisors formally accepts the election results.
Breed has declined to comment on her choice for DA, but it’s pretty clear that District 2 Supervisor Catherine Stefani is on the shortlist. She’s a former prosecutor in Contra Costa County and a Breed ally. Stefani lives in the most expensive neighborhood in the most expensive city in California, Pacific Heights/Cow Hollow. The campaign money’s close by.
Breed’s main problem in installing Stefani as DA is that she’ll lose a moderate ally on the Board of Supervisors, but even so, she still gets to choose Stefani’s replacement on the Board. Breed has installed the SF School Board and now will install the interim DA,. All appointments the voters have no say in, for the time being.
Something tells me the same money that worked to recall our DA and our School Board, will begin to work to remedy that pesky progressive supervisor problem we have, too.
So much for Democracy.
The conservatives have fired off three recall elections in less than a year in California, the Recall Gov Newsom campaign, then Recall the SF School Board, and now the Recall Chesa Boudin. SF Voter turnout since has dropped precipitously. In September San Francisco had a 67.95% turnout to Save Newsom, then in February only 36% of voters turned out and the School Board was ousted. This week, the initial numbers were indicating a voter turnout of around 25%, that number has since climbed to around 45% because a lot of people voted late. But Chesa still lost.
The rich conservatives like this trend of low voter turnout in recalls, it lets them buyout positions in government. You can bet that they will continue to spring more recalls, and spend a lot of money to keep election fatigue high and voter turnout low.
It’s clear they like Mayor Breed appointees more than democratically elected candidates.
You’ll start seeing their money go to work this summer and fall, again. Our next election is in November, 2022. SF Board of Supervisors seats for districts 2, 4, 6, 8 and 10 are all on the ballot.
There is a simple, yet elegant cure for all this. Progressives need to get off their butts and vote. But then again, the conservative billionaires may just recall the Supervisors they don’t like anyway, and have Breed replace them.