LA Times: An effort to recall Los Angeles D.A. is underway: What happens now?
It’s been less than six months since reform-minded Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. George Gascón took office. But in that time, he’s already faced lawsuits from his own prosecutors, interference on cases from other California law enforcement leaders and an outcry from some crime victims who claim his policies have abandoned them.
Despite the vitriol, Gascón won his November election handily, besting incumbent Jackie Lacey by more than a quarter-million votes. Gascón’s supporters have dismissed most of the criticisms against him as the result of misguided outrage from reform-resistant law enforcement officials or conservative politicians.
The strength of the backlash against Gascón’s plans to reimagine criminal justice in L.A. County will now be put to the test, as a petition seeking to recall him was formally approved Thursday.
What happened this week?
A petition seeking to remove Gascón from office was approved on Thursday by the L.A. County Registrar, which oversees elections.
What happens now?
Recall organizers must collect signatures of support from 10% of L.A. County’s registered voters — a little more than 579,000 people — by Oct. 27. Gathering signatures is a costly and labor-intensive task, but if organizers succeed, then a recall election will be held. Gascon would be removed from office if a majority of voters choose to recall him and he would be replaced by the candidate who receives the most votes in the recall election.
Roughly 800 people have signed up as volunteer signature gatherers, and another 100 paid gatherers will be deployed “immediately,” according to the recall campaign. A news conference is expected to be held in the coming days, and signature collection sites have been established at dozens of locations around L.A. County, including several gun stores and Republican office buildings.
Because it is common for some signatures gathered in recalls to be deemed invalid, Joshua Spivak, a senior fellow at the Hugh L. Carey Institute for Government Reform at Wagner College, the campaign to recall Gascón will need to collect around a total of 750,000 signatures.
Who is behind the recall effort?
While L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva might be the most high-profile supporter, the recall push is led by former Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley and two women who have lost relatives to violent crime.
Tania Owen is the widow of a murdered L.A. County sheriff’s department sergeant, and Desiree Andrade’s son was murdered in 2018. Both have said they were infuriated by Gascón’s decision to forbid his prosecutors from seeking the death penalty or from alleging special circumstances in murder cases, which means people accused of murder generally will not face the death penalty or life without parole. In Owen’s case, her husband’s killer was still sentenced to life without parole under a negotiated plea, though the deal was struck after a judge deemed some of Gascón’s policies to be unlawful.