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How a progressive prosecutor was reelected in moderate suburbs

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There’s not a lot that disturbs the peace within the snug confines of Contra Costa County, so when a thieving flash mob set upon the Nordstrom at an upscale mall, smashing and grabbing, it was large information for days on finish.

The assault in November coincided with a series of brazen robberies across the bay at posh retailers in San Francisco’s Union Square, which additionally drew nationwide headlines.

The rampage contributed to a gnawing sense of lawlessness within the metropolis and helped result in the June 7 recall of its left-leaning district attorney. But on the identical day Chesa Boudin was ousted, voters within the extra average Contra Costa suburbs decisively reelected his progressive peer, Dist. Atty. Diana Becton, regardless of makes an attempt to wrap the plundered Nordstrom round her neck.

Becton’s victory, together with sturdy election day showings by liberal-leaning prosecutors similar to state Atty. Gen. Rob Bonta, belied claims that Boudin’s defeat — in lefty San Francisco, no much less — proved the post-George Floyd justice reform motion had run its course.

It additionally confirmed {that a} marketing campaign emphasizing public security and accountability alongside reform can prevail even in a local weather the place crime has turn into certainly one of voters’ topmost considerations.

Like Boudin, Becton confronted accusations of coddling criminals and compromising the well-being of residents along with her push to rethink how justice is finished. Related sentiments are fueling efforts to recall Los Angeles’ district attorney, George Gascón.

However to listen to Becton inform it, her victory reveals that defending the general public and addressing racial and social inequities are usually not mutually unique.

“I believe the message is we are able to have secure communities, however we are able to additionally work on reforming our legal justice system,” Becton mentioned in a current interview, leveling her arms to resemble the scales of justice. It’s not easy, she mentioned, but it surely’s doable.

There have been necessary variations between the contests in Contra Costa County and San Francisco.

Boudin lacked a robust base of help among the many metropolis’s political institution and was blitzed with millions of dollars in negative advertising. Extra considerably, the recall was an up-or-down vote on Boudin’s efficiency, successfully pitting the besieged D.A. towards himself.

Becton’s race supplied a selection, and she or he had the good thing about an opponent, veteran prosecutor Mary Knox, who appeared too resistant to alter.

In a case of grave misconduct, former Sheriff’s Deputy Andrew Hall was convicted and sentenced in March to 6 years in jail for the 2018 taking pictures of an unarmed motorist in Danville. It was the primary time in county historical past a legislation enforcement officer confronted felony prices for an on-the-job taking pictures.

Knox mentioned Corridor by no means ought to have been charged as a result of he was “below no obligation” to maneuver away from a automotive accelerating towards him. Knox admitted, nevertheless, she had by no means watched a video of the taking pictures, a damning piece of proof that confirmed Corridor getting into the trail of the slow-moving automobile earlier than firing.

“The very last thing Contra Costa wants is an apologist for dangerous cops as the highest prosecutor,” the East Bay Times wrote in a scathing editorial endorsing Becton’s reelection.

A former decide and the county’s first Black and feminine district legal professional, Becton was appointed by the Board of Supervisors in 2017 after her predecessor was convicted for misusing marketing campaign funds. She ran for election the subsequent yr as a reform-minded prosecutor — two years earlier than Floyd’s homicide by a Minneapolis policeman galvanized the motion — and has adopted by means of in a number of methods.

Amongst them, Becton moved away from charging folks for low-level, nonviolent offenses; acted to get rid of racial disparities in sentencing; and established “Clear Slate Day” for ex-offenders to clear their legal information.

On the similar time, her marketing campaign emphasised that crime prevention and public security remained Becton’s prime priorities. (Violent and property crime charges had been each down in Contra Costa County in 2020, the final yr for which state crime statistics can be found, in contrast with the yr earlier than Becton turned district legal professional.)

That two-part message — it’s doable to have security and reform — shouldn’t be one proponents can simply scale back to a pithy marketing campaign slogan. However Becton advised most voters perceive that, even when some political analysts and advocates on each side attempt to scale back the selection to 1 or the opposite.

“I name myself a prosecutor who’s at the beginning about neighborhood security,” Becton mentioned, “but additionally about altering the legal justice system so it’s truthful and … works for everybody.”

Surrounded in her workplace by renderings of Woman Justice, Becton wouldn’t contact questions on Boudin’s defeat or the try to short-circuit Gascón’s prosecutorial profession.

“I believe there’s a variety of dynamics that might have occurred in San Francisco,” Becton mentioned vaguely. She smiled, politely, when requested about Gascón, and waited for an additional query.

However regardless that she declined to talk up, Becton’s expertise presents a lesson Gascón and others searching for to remediate the justice system may effectively heed: Assist for reform efforts, nevertheless obligatory or well-intentioned, rapidly evaporates when voters really feel threatened.

Security issues. You possibly can’t change hearts and minds when individuals are frightened about being clubbed over the pinnacle.