Kathy Boudin, the mother of San Francisco DA Chesa Boudin, a former member of the Weather Underground, and a convicted murder resulting from a botched 1981 robbery, died of cancer on Sunday at the age of 78.
Born in 1943 in New York City, Boudin graduated from Bryn Mawr College. Following graduation, Boudin joined with radical organizations, including the Weather Underground domestic terrorist group. The groups’ actions quickly got attention of law enforcement, with Boudin ending up on the run following her involvement in the 1970 Greenwich Village Townhouse explosion in New York City, a blast that killed three and nearly killed dozens more, including actor Dustin Hoffman.
While on the run, she entered into a relationship with fellow Weather Underground member and former Columbia University Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) member David Gilbert. They had a son, Chesa Boudin, in 1980. However, the law finally caught up with them in 1981 during a botched armored car robbery in Nanuet, New York. The robbery, known as the 1981 Brinks Robbery, resulted in three deaths. Once captured, Boudin received a felony murder charge and robbery charge for 20 years in prison to life in exchange for a guilty plea.
Boudin wrote from behind prison for over twenty years. She was released on her third parole attempt in 2003, after which she worked as an advisor for recently paroled criminals and took up teaching positions at Columbia University and New York University. Her son Chesa, who was raised by fellow Weather Underground members Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn during her imprisonment, worked through legal clerking and working in the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office to be elected as District Attorney of San Francisco in 2019. Gilbert, her partner, was released from prison last year.
Possible effects on the recall election
Many political analysts believe that her death will have a profound impact on the upcoming recall election of her son, Chesa. DA Boudin, who faces being recalled due to massive criticism over many of his newly implemented policies. His “decarceration” efforts have led to most criminals not being prosecuted and repeat offenders getting released, as well as ramped-up policies aimed at members of the San Francisco Police Department.
Boudin is currently way down in polling. The most recent polls have shown San Franciscans being in favor of recalling him by a ratio of 2 to 1, with signs showing that the divide has grown even more in recent weeks. The death of his mother could either help him or hurt him in the final weeks of the lead-up to the election.
“On one hand, it’s a family death and those tend to help many who are sympathetic to that to switch their vote, like what we saw when Barack Obama’s grandmother died in Hawaii shortly before the 2008 election,” said Monica Wald, a Washington-based elections advisor to the Globe on Monday. “On the other hand, many voters tend not to know too much about a candidates family, and bad family pasts can hurt elections or at the very least give some image problems. Billy Carter in the 70’s is the poster child for what can go wrong. And here, not too many know about his parents terrorist past, especially that they both served time for murdering people. With it coming out in the open again, it may negate any goodwill that a family death could bring, and then some.”
“It will be interesting to see how Boudin talks about this in the final month to the election. He needs to be very careful about talking about cop-killers and terrorists, even in a city like San Francisco that was a haven for radicals like his parents in the 60s and 70s.”
The recall election of Chesa Boudin will take place on June 7th.
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