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Chesa Boudin is out. California criminal justice reform is still in.- POLITICO


THE BUZZ — THE REFORM MOVEMENT LIVES: The end of Chesa Boudin’s tenure is not the terminus of California criminal justice reform.

The progressive San Francisco district attorney’s unequivocal defeat on Tuesday night fit neatly into a ready-made narrative of a faltering movement. If the deepest-blue of liberal enclaves hadn’t even let a reformer complete a full term, the thinking went, it was a devastating omen for broader efforts toward lighter sentences, less incarceration and more criminal penalties for police officers.

Conservative pundits proclaimed that theme; Republicans extrapolated broader defeats in November for weak-on-crime Democrats; one GOP U.S. senator mused, bizarrely, that President Joe Biden might appoint Boudin to his administration.

But the full picture was more complicated:

  • Just across the Bay in Alameda County, repeat progressive D.A. candidate Pamela Price secured a plurality and headed to a runoff.
  • Contra Costa County District Attorney and decarceral Boudin ally Diana Becton rebuffed a law-enforcement-funded opponent — aided by hefty spending by reformers — after having convicted a former sheriff’s deputy for a fatal shooting.
  • Los Angeles Sheriff Alex Villanueva is facing a runoff, having gone from a Democratic breakthrough to bogeyman as he became a fixture of Fox News panels decrying liberal law enforcement.
  • And we learned yesterday that San Mateo County had traded its incumbent sheriff for reform-promising challenger Christina Corpus and Alameda may do the same in November.

Zooming out from local races to the entire state, Attorney General Rob Bonta — the man reformers urged Gov. Gavin Newsom to appoint to the job on the strength of a record that included bills to outlaw cash bail and private prisons — was sitting on a comfortable statewide majority.

One key opponent, Sacramento District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert and her restoring-order-from-chaos campaign, ran a distant fourth and trailed Bonta in Schubert’s home turf of Sacramento County.

It’s not all roses for reformers, of course. Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer crushed a Democratic opponent despite swirling scandals, prosecutor Thien Ho eclipsed progressive Alana Mathews for Schubert’s gig and San Joaquin County District Attorney Tori Verber Salazar trails a challenger.

With Boudin and Salazar gone, the progressive Prosecutors Alliance would be down to Becton and Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascón, who could still face a November recall vote as organizers race to gather signatures ahead of a July deadline. Los Angeles mayoral candidate Rick Caruso’s platform of restoring public safety clearly resonated with a plurality of voters, pushing him to a November showdown.

And, yes, Boudin’s loss is a profound defeat for the movement. It was far more decisive than a narrow 2019 victory that took multiple rounds of ranked-choice voting. San Franciscans and Californians are genuinely concerned about crime and frustrated with homelessness.

But the recall also grew from the fertile soil of pandemic discontent, nourished by millions of dollars from real estate and tech industry foes. Even opponents argued the campaign was not a rejection of reform but a rebuke of Boudin himself. San Francisco Mayor London Breed, a Boudin antagonist who stayed out of the campaign but gets to pick a new D.A., told reporters the outcome “does not mean that criminal justice reform in San Francisco is going anywhere.”

Or, as a defeated but un-chastened Boudin told supporters on Tuesday night: “The movement that got us elected in 2019 is alive and well.” Here’s our story on why that may well be the case in California.

BUENOS DÍAS, good Friday morning. A heat wave is set to continue scorching the state — fueling calls in the Legislature for the state to do a better job of monitoring and responding to extreme temperatures. Stay cool, readers.

Got a tip or story idea for California Playbook? Hit us up: [email protected] and [email protected] or follow us on Twitter @JeremyBWhite and @Lara_Korte

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “Whatever you think about Brian Dahle, he’s a thoughtful guy. He’s not some sort of lunatic. He is unlikely to embarrass the candidates down below. The Republican Party could have done far worse considering the other candidates that were on the ballot. I went to the convention. I heard some of these people.” Republican consultant Matt Rexroad discusses GOP gubernatorial standard-bearer and state Sen. Brian Dahle at a Sacramento Press Club event.

TWEET OF THE DAY: Progressive $18-minimum-wage champion @JosephNSanberg on looking beyond root causes after he was assaulted by a homeless man in Venice: “[W]e can’t have those conversations if we deny what people’s eyes and ears are telling them. We as progressives lose our credibility to have serious, intellectually-honest conversations about criminal justice and homelessness when we dismiss concerns on these issues.”

WHERE’S GAVIN? Nothing official announced.

— “Spending spree: Oversight scarce as billions in COVID aid poured into California schools,” by CalMatters’ Robert Lewis and Joe Hong: “No centralized state or federal database exists to show how schools have spent this money. And data from the districts’ quarterly spending reports provided to the state are so broad as to be virtually useless in tracking this COVID relief money … The records reveal pandemic winners – companies that reaped millions as overwhelmed districts, suddenly flush with cash, started writing checks.”

STRIKE TEN — “Facebook’s ban on gun sales gives sellers 10 strikes before booting them,” by the Washington Post’s Elizabeth Dwoskin and Naomi Nix: “The policy, which has not previously been reported, is much more lenient than for users who post child pornography, which is illegal, or a terrorist image on Facebook, which prompts immediate removal from the platform.”

— “Misinformation about Paul Pelosi’s DUI arrest has prompted a flood of angry calls to Napa officials,” by the SF Chronicle’s Aidin Vaziri.

GOOD YARN — “A violent gang, an FBI informant and the truth behind one of L.A.’s deadliest fires,” by the LATimes’ Matthew Ormseth.

WILK’S WAGER: One of the biggest surprises of Tuesday’s primary is the likelihood that Republicans will be shut out of the top two in the red-leaning 4th Senate district, where two Democrats lead after six Republicans carved up a majority of the vote. One interesting piece of top-two maneuvering: Senate Republican Leader Scott Wilk spent $24,000 to boost Democrat and lead vote-getter Tim Robertson.

IN THE JUNGLE — “Ten years later, California’s ‘top two’ primary isn’t always what it seems,” by the LATimes’ John Myers: “Whether the primary’s rules have made an improvement or impediment for voters has been debated, almost nonstop, for a decade. Some of the most alluring promises made 10 years ago — that pragmatic candidates would prevail over partisans, for example — have failed to materialize.”

— “Will the L.A. school board runoff revert to the familiar mudslinging, big-spending format?” by the LATimes’ Howard Blume: “Tuesday’s primary left the outcome of two Los Angeles school board races in doubt, setting the stage for a general election campaign that could prove less polite and more expensive.”

— “S.F. Mayor Breed wants millions to hire and keep police officers. But will the plan work?” by the SF Chronicle’s Mallory Moench: “Most of the Board of Supervisors supports boosting officer pay, but questions remain among some observers over whether the proposed increases will make a difference, and even whether pay raises are the right way to address the issue.”

IN THE HOTSEAT — “PG&E’s ‘excessively delayed response’ worsened Dixie Fire spread, Cal Fire report claims,” by the Sac Bee’s Dale Kasler: “By the time a PG&E troubleshooter arrived at the scene, about 10 hours after the problem occurred, ‘the fire was too large for him to contain and a 911 response was requested,’ the investigators wrote.”

— “School’s out. Will that help California get ahead of COVID-19?” by the LATimes’ Corinne Purtill: “Coronavirus cases across Los Angeles County are rising just as students are counting down the days left in school. As L.A. prepares for its third pandemic summer, a question hovers like June gloom: What will the summer holiday mean for COVID-19?”

— “Why a California Democrat’s ‘red flag’ gun proposal might become law,” by the LATimes’ Nolan D. McCaskill: “A top Senate Republican has signaled that a bipartisan group of senators seeking a compromise measure on gun safety discussed the possibility of including red flag provisions. The House’s red flag bill was the result of separate measures being pushed by Reps. Salud Carbajal (D-Santa Barbara) and Lucy McBath (D-Ga.), both of whom have experienced personal loss due to gun violence.”

Big Tech legislation sparks infighting at top U.S. legal organization, by POLITICO’s Emily Birnbaum: There’s long been tension within the ABA’s antitrust section between corporate defense lawyers and plaintiff’s lawyers who represent employees or smaller companies. But as the Biden administration and Congress push to rein in the country’s largest tech companies, that rift is turning increasingly hostile and the self-proclaimed little guys are ready to rebel.

— “NHTSA Upgrades Tesla Autopilot Probe Into Emergency-Scene Crashes,” by the Wall Street Journal’s Ryan Felton: “The agency said it was upgrading its earlier investigation to an engineering analysis, a step the NHTSA takes in determining whether to order a recall. The investigation covers an estimated 830,000 Tesla vehicles made from 2014 to 2021, including the Model 3, Model S, Model X and Model Y.”

— “Official: 4 dead, 1 unaccounted for in Marine aircraft crash,” by the AP’s Julie Watson and Lolita C. Baldor.

— “‘You know what these are for’: How EBay sellers dodge its assault weapons ban,” by the LATimes’ Brian Contreras.

— “Alameda County has first suspected case of monkeypox,” by the SF Chronicle’s Erin Allday.

— “Southwest wins lawsuit over dying Newport Beach passenger mistaken as unruly,” via the Bay Area News Group.

— “Logan Ury Says You’re Dating All Wrong,” by the NYTimes’ Dani Blum.

Meta’s Meredith Carden … Mayer Marx

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