Disgraced and recalled former San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin announced on Wednesday he will not run for office in 2024 and would instead be focusing on his new position as the executive director of the new Criminal Law and Justice Center at the UC Berkeley School of Law.
Boudin, who was elected in 2019 in San Francisco as the DA to replace George Gascon, who became the DA in Los Angeles County, faced recall pressures early on in his tenure after enacting controversial policies including stopping cash bail and ending prosecution of many “lighter” crimes. As the COVID-19 pandemic took hold in 2020, complicating many policing and prosecution matters, Boudin’s policies caused crime in San Francisco to further skyrocket by making an already bad crime situation even worse.
Fed up, San Francisco voters, led by groups including Safer SF Without Boudin, quickly began a signature drive to force a recall vote against him. In 2021, 30,000 more signatures than were needed for the recall were collected, highlighting the worsening crime situation in the city and the lack of prosecutions by the DA’s office. As the election neared for the June 2002 primary day vote, polls came out showing that roughly two-thirds of all voters were against him. The wave against him carried over, with voters ultimately voting to recall him in June of last year.
As the new DA, Brooke Jenkins, immediately moved away from Boudin’s policies and reversed many of them, Boudin largely stayed out of the public eye. While he did briefly entertain the idea of running for DA last year to get his seat back, his carrying over unpopularity caused him to abort his political comeback. However, with the year anniversary of his vote out approaching, and a new position on the horizon, Boudin released an op-ed on Wednesday about how he views certain things now and what his plans are for the future.
The first major part was Boudin announcing that, rather than run for office in 2024, he would be starting a new position as the executive director of the new Criminal Law and Justice Center at the UC Berkeley School of Law. Within the statement, he mentioned both of his criminal parents being in jail for much of his life and how that moved him to the legal profession.
“My new job is still consistent with my lifelong commitment to fixing the criminal legal system, ending mass incarceration, and innovating data-driven solutions to public safety challenges,” said Boudin on Wednesday. “It’s a job that’s going to allow me to draw on the lived experience I had visiting my parents in prison for a combined 63 years, and the practical professional experience I had both as a public defender and elected district attorney in San Francisco.”
However, he also didn’t deny that he could run for office past 2024, simply noting that “Never say never.”
No run in 2024
Boudin also went after several more recent issues in San Francisco, such as new proposed fentanyl laws that wouldn’t protect undocumented immigrants with fentanyl convictions under the sanctuary city laws and the handling of the Banko Brown shooting by Jenkins.
“I absolutely do not agree with scapegoating or attacking immigrants for what are clearly deep-rooted structural inequities and a public health crisis. It has never worked, and it’s often been a red flag for fascism. Scapegoating immigrants is not who we are in San Francisco, and it will not make us safer,” added Boudin. “Any experienced prosecutor knows, and Jenkins should have known perfectly well, that you don’t come out while a case is still under investigation, at least allegedly, and make the defense’s case for them.”
Reaction to Boudin’s statement was polarizing on Wednesday. Some defended Boudin, including the UC Berkeley School of Law, who doubled down on their choice.
“Chesa was chosen after a national search and has substantial experience across the criminal justice system,” said UC Berkeley School of Law dean, Erwin Chemerinsky. “He has thought deeply about the system, and I cannot think of anyone better to create and direct this important center.”
Conversely, others pointed out the faults in Boudin’s statement and others who defended him, with many also pointing out that someone who had severely hurt a city with social justice policies would now be the director of an entire center within a University because of it.
“PROFOUND INDEED,” tweeted founder of the Recall of District Attorney Chesa Boudin movement and political commentator Richie Greenberg on Wednesday. “That Chesa Boudin exploited loopholes to get elected with no prosecutorial experience, shut down accountability for even most violent repeat offenders, defended drug dealers, got a few residents killed- and was thrown out of office, well, you’re an embarrassment!
“Disgraced fraud of a DA says he won’t run for office in 2024, like he’d really win. Delusional, narcissistic, defiant, an embarrassment- he hasn’t learned a thing from his getting thrown out of office.”
DISGRACED FRAUD OF A DA says he won’t run for office in 2024, like he’d really win. Delusional, narcissistic, defiant, an embarrassment- he hasn’t learned a thing from his getting thrown out of office. https://t.co/nVJaH2eUGk
— Richie Greenberg (@richieSF2016) May 31, 2023
Bay Area political issue consultant Hannah Reed added in a Globe interview on Wednesday that “We had all expected him to run in the next few years as the recall fervor died down, but the city hasn’t really calmed down. It’s continuing to get worse. While some of it is economic factors, a lot of the crime and legal issues stymieing the city can still be traced back t Boudin. It’s no wonder he went to academia, outside the city I should add, rather than defend his record in, say, a public debate. Right now, voters still dislike him, so a run for Mayor, Supervisors, Assembly, even DA again, it just won’t work. He’d lose in the primaries. People genuinely hate him. That’s the real vibe here, and by what Boudin chose as his next job, you can see why he chose it.”
As of Wednesday, Boudin still hasn’t ruled out any elections plans past 2024.
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