On Sunday, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti switched his endorsement in the Los Angeles County district attorney’s race from incumbent DA Jackie Lacey to former San Francisco DA George Gascón after their performances in a heated debate the day before.
From Lacey to Gascon
Garcetti had initially been behind the longtime DA Lacey, but he had begun questioning her as early as this summer after the actions of the LAPD during the George Floyd protests and Riots in downtown Los Angeles. Many viewed the LAPD’s tactics as brutal, especially in response to the message of social and racial justice most protesters had been out there for.
The issue of criminal justice was also brought to a higher profile during the summer due to the protests and riots, with Gascón being more in favor of reforms and sending less people to prison with Lacey opposing many reforms. While this earned Lacey the respect of the LAPD and other law enforcement organizations, as well as many community groups wanting lower crime, it has turned many former supporters away, including Mayor Garcetti. Members of Black Lives Matter have even protested outside of her LA office and her home for not prosecuting police officers.
However, Mayor Garcetti was still endorsing Lacey for DA going into the final full month of the election, with the Mayor seemingly waiting on the results of the DA debate on Saturday night to see if his support should be changed.
During the debate, both Gascón and Lacey sparred over several major topics, including attacking each other over the crime rates in both LA County and San Francisco County.
“My opponent talks about safety,” noted Gascón during the debate. “During her leadership, we’ve seen violent crime go up by 27 percent in LA County and nearly 50% in the city of L.A. At the same time, we have seen reductions per capita in violent crime in San Francisco.”
However, Lacey shot back with equally bad statistics from San Francisco, where Gascón had previously been a DA.
“Have you been to San Francisco lately,” answered Lacey. “It’s a mess and he left it in a mess. You are safer in LA County than you are in San Francisco. The crimes per capita were much higher in San Francisco than they were in LA. That’s because the former San Francisco DA, when he was there, he just looked the other way with regard to open air drug dealing, with regard to auto thefts, breaking into cars. He simply looked the other way.”
Both candidates also questioned each others records on police accountability, with each citing cases of each other not prosecuting police officers in violent altercations.
“He was known for going easy on the discipline of officers,” said Lacey about Gascón’s time with the LAPD. “He was chosen deliberately to be the one who decides discipline.”
Gascón retorted by saying “She talks about me being soft on employees. This when the reality is that law enforcement is supporting her because she looks the other way.”
“The police usually know that they’re not going to be held accountable when they do wrong in this community. Not only were there many problems with their responses, but there were more problems with the fact the district attorney looks the other way when there are so many cases where we saw excessive force occur.”
However, the most vicious part of the debate came when they challenged each other on fundraising.
Gascón noted that Lacey had received millions from law enforcement unions, something the Los Angeles Times confirmed last week when it was found that police unions had indeed given Lacey a combined $5 million in funding. Gascón remarked that it was a huge conflict of interest, as the DA often has to prosecute against law enforcement officers.
Lacey, in turn, said that Gascon received $6 million from Bay Area millionaires and billionaires for a Los Angeles race. The California Globe had earlier confirmed this, finding that philanthropist George Soros had largely funded Gascon’s campaign, giving more than $2.5 million to Gascon so far.
Swaying the Mayor
However, despite the surprising fundraising numbers, the shifts in police protections and police accountability ultimately swayed the Mayor after the debate, with Garcetti switching his support less than 24 hours later via Twitter.
“I’m proud to endorse George Gascon for L.A. District Attorney,” Garcetti tweeted late Sunday. “George Gascón will help our county shift the burden from the criminal justice system and jails toward diversion, intervention and re-entry programs that save money and save lives. He is a leader who I have known and trusted for nearly twenty years who can meet this moment.”
— Eric Garcetti (@ericgarcetti) October 5, 2020
Lacey largely denounced Garcetti’s statement on Monday, saying in an announcement that it was simply a distraction away from his poor performance during the debate.
“Major endorsements are used like this all the time,” said political debate researcher Alan McCall in an interview with the Globe. “Look at how many presidential debates have an endorsement pop in from a former president or celebrity or other bigwig a short time later. It’s by the playbook.”
“The only difference is that the Mayor here had previously supported the other candidate. Switching support doesn’t happen often, but it does help amplify the the new stakes a bit. Union leaders did this in the 60’s for Kennedy and Johnson who had previously helped out Nixon and Goldwater. This is just the modern day equivalent.”
Polls still show a close race heading into the final weeks before the election. Many political experts are still deeming this race too close to call.
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