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Jun. 13, 2024

Santa Clara County's Democratic DA endorses Gascón's challenger

The endorsement underscores the shift that has occurred in recent years as more left-wing DAs took power in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Oakland and a few other counties aiming to lock up fewer nonviolent offenders and the anxiety voters now have over rising crime.

Santa Clara County DA Jeff Rosen, left, shakes hands with Nathan Hochman, who is running for LA County DA.

Jeffrey F. Rosen, a Democrat who made his name as a reformist prosecutor when he unseated a law-and-order DA in Santa Clara County, on Wednesday endorsed Nathan Hochman, a former Republican turned independent trying to unseat Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón, another reformist prosecutor.

The endorsement underscores the shift that has occurred in recent years as more left-wing DAs took power in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Oakland and a few other counties aiming to lock up fewer nonviolent offenders and the anxiety voters now have over crime. Flanked by more than 100 Los Angeles County deputy district attorneys at a news conference in downtown Los Angeles, Rosen sought to stitch together those two issues.

"Fairness and safety are intertwined values. So, anyone who thinks criminal justice reform is more important than public safety does not understand the meaning of reform, because reform only works if it promotes both justice and a safer community," Rosen said. "I am here today to endorse Nathan Hochman as an exceptionally qualified candidate to implement reform in the DA's office that will bring both fairness and accountability."

Hochman, a former federal prosecutor who switched his party preference to independent, has sought to carve out a middle ground in his opposition to Gascón, portraying himself as also a reformist prosecutor but one that wouldn't allow crime to run rampant.

"Jeff has done an exceptional job finding a meaningful balance that keeps the public safe without returning to mass incarceration," Hochman said. "He has instituted innovative reforms that have cut the footprint of the criminal justice system in his county in half, without seeing the increase in crime that we have here in Los Angeles County. I am honored that he traveled to Los Angeles to stand by my side and advocate for the change that is so desperately needed here."

Hochman and Rosen said that while other major U.S. cities have seen a decline in homicides this year, Los Angeles County saw an increase. They also pointed to a rise in robberies. To underscore that point, Peter Kwong, a prominent Chinatown business owner, also came to the news conference to endorse Hochman.

"Before Gascón, people felt safe visiting Chinatown and patronizing the local businesses. Each year that Gascón has been DA, things have gone from bad to worse. There are burglaries, shoplifting, robberies, and violent crime. People don't feel safe anymore, and business is down. None of this is really a surprise - criminals know they rarely go to jail for committing crime. When there are no consequences, there's nothing stopping them," Kwong said.

A spokesperson for Gascón could not immediately be reached for comment.

Rosen unseated Dolores Carr to become the Santa Clara County District Attorney in 2011. A little-known deputy district attorney at the time, Rosen beat his former boss by a razor-thin margin in a vitriolic race.

As district attorney, Rosen has become well-known for his opposition to the death penalty. He has spoken publicly about how a trip to Alabama led him to see the connection between the slavery and the death penalty. In 2020, he announced his office would no longer seek the death penalty in any cases.

In April, he petitioned the Santa Clara County Superior Court asking that all 15 inmates on death row from convictions in the county be resentenced to life without parole.

But Rosen has also not gone as far left as some urban prosecutors in California. He is not a part of the progressive Prosecutors Alliance, which counts Gascón and Contra Costa County District Attorney Diana Becton as members. Two other members of the group have been unseated by opponents running to their right: former San Francisco County District Attorney Chesa Boudin and former San Joaquin County District Attorney Tori Verber Salazar.

Former Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert said it's not unusual for district attorneys to endorse candidates in other county's races -- occasionally even across party lines.

"I like Jeff Rosen a lot," Schubert said. "I respect him. We don't agree on everything ideologically. However, I respect the fact that he wants a solid, real prosecutor in the LA DA's office, and the fact that he has come out publicly to support Nathan Hochman speaks volumes to his commitment to having a real and competent district attorney for Los Angeles."


David Houston

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