On Thursday night, organizers of a campaign to recall Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascon from office announced that election officials had approved their petition for public circulation and signature gathering.
Proponents of the effort must now collect 579,062 valid signatures from registered voters in the county within 160 days to successfully trigger a recall election, making the deadline October 27. If they are successful, a recall election would likely occur next year.
L.A. County is the most populous in the nation, with more than ten million residents.
“George Gascon got elected by disguising a radical, dangerous, and pro-criminal agenda as ‘criminal justice reform,’ but that’s not what he is doing,” said Desiree Andrade, organizer and spokesperson for the Recall George Gascon campaign. “What he failed to mention was that he would cater to the most heinous offenders in our society at the expense of victims and let cold-blooded killers back onto our streets. We have no choice but to seek Gascon’s immediate removal from office because his twisted social experiment is jeopardizing the safety of our communities and revictimizing victims and their families all over again.”
Victims of Violent Crime for the Recall of District Attorney Gascon leads the drive to oust L.A. County’s top law enforcement official. Allies of the group started organizing after Gascon defeated the two-term incumbent Jackie Lacey in November. She was also a Democrat, but widely considered part of the local political establishment.
“This recall effort was announced the day of the DA’s inauguration,” said Max Szabo, who has served as a spokesman for Gascon, in a statement to The Daily Wire. “There’s a finish line in politics, and it’s called Election Day. If you lose train in the off-season and be ready to go next time.”
The recall group’s Twitter account became active soon after Gascon issued a set of special orders on December 7, his first day on the job. His new directives included ending cash bail for misdemeanors and what he described as low-level non-serious crimes, stopping the practice of trying juveniles as adults, and a ban on prosecutors seeking sentencing enhancements.
Gascon’s critics point out that some of his sweeping policy changes were not part of his progressive campaign platform. For example, he did not run on eliminating all sentencing enhancements. But his plan to do so, along with other elements of his agenda, sparked revolt from victims of crime, law enforcement unions, and several deputy district attorneys within Gascon’s office.
Gascon later scaled back the enhancement order after public outcry. Then in February, a judge issued a preliminary injunction against Gascon finding that his plan violated state law. Later that month, the recall campaign formally launched with a “Victim’s Vigil” held in downtown L.A.
County rules required recall organizers to wait until March 8 – 90 days after Gascon had been in office – before filing a recall petition. Victims’ families and prosecutors used that time to connect with media outlets, and their stories helped grow support for the looming recall.
Still, Gascon defenders claim that most victims of violent crime in L.A. County favor changes in the criminal justice system that emphasize rehabilitation and crime prevention over incarceration.
More city councils approved votes of ‘no confidence’ in Gascon earlier this week, bringing the total to fourteen. They include Beverly Hills, Whittier, Rosemead, La Mirada, Lancaster, Pico Rivera, Covina, Santa Clarita, Azusa, Santa Fe Springs, Diamond Bar, Redondo Beach, Arcadia, and Manhattan Beach. There are 88 cities in L.A. County, which is the nation’s largest criminal justice jurisdiction.
Mark J. Gonzalez, Chair of the L.A. County Democratic Party, vowed on Thursday night to “fight any attempted recall” of Gascon. He described the drive as a partisan effort based partly on “misinformation” from “the same failed proponents” attempting to recall California Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom.
“Democrats and voters across Los Angeles overwhelmingly supported DA Gascon in November, and voted to support policies that will hold criminals accountable, allow for restorative justice, and would move our failing criminal justice system forward into the 21st century,” he said in a statement. “If this is the playbook when a small minority of people and republicans want to use when they don’t get their way, wasting taxpayer money and time, then we’ll crack open ours to continue to fight these recalls to nowhere.”
Gascon has said the recall effort “seems to be driven by Republicans” and alleged that former GOP elected officials had “taken a few victims of crime that are very traumatized” and are “using them in ways that I find unconscionable.”
Tania Owen, a retired detective for the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department (LASD), is an honorary co-chair of the recall group. She is also the widow of slain LASD Sgt. Steve Owen, who was killed execution-style in the line of duty in 2016. Her husband’s killer pleaded guilty to the murder and was recently sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
“The outpouring of support for the recall movement and our fight to bring justice for victims has truly been amazing and is growing every day as more residents learn about the destructive real-world impacts of Gascon’s policies,” said Owen. “George Gascon has turned his back on victims and is failing to protect his constituents, so we are taking matters into our own hands.”
Owen previously estimated that the recall process would cost between $3.5 to $4 million.
LASD Sheriff Alex Villanueva has publicly supported the recall campaign against Gascon, claiming, “This guy is absolutely not advocating on behalf of public safety.”
Organizers say they will host a press conference at the Los Angeles Hall of Justice soon to formally kick off the signature-gathering drive.
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