Voters in San Francisco oust progressive district attorney in recall election

Los Angeles contest for mayor to go to run-off in November

Voters in California have signalled their unhappiness over crime rates, ousting a progressive district attorney in San Francisco and backing in large numbers a billionaire property developer who promised he could “clean up” Los Angeles.

Chesa Boudin was removed after two and a half years in office as district attorney in a recall election in the mainly liberal city of San Francisco.

A former public defender, Mr Boudin was elected in 2019 with a promise to put in place criminal justice reforms aimed at keeping low level offenders out of prison and spare young people from long jail sentences.

He also moved to eliminate cash bail and pledged to hold police in the city accountable for their actions.

Mr Boudin’s critics blamed his policies for a rise in murders, shootings and property crimes. Some contended that he appeared to back perpetrators of crime more than victims.

However, his supporters linked the spike in crime to the pandemic and argued that this was now reverting to previous levels. They also contended that the growing number of homeless people in San Francisco had distorted some residents’ perceptions of security.

The ousting of Mr Boudin coming on the heels of the recall of two board of education members in San Francisco in February was seen by some observers in the city as a signal to the Democratic leadership that they wanted change.

Some have questioned whether Democratic Party leaders in the city had moved further to the left than their voters.

In Los Angeles the contest for mayor of the second largest city in the US also featured concerns of voters about public safety and homelessness.

Rick Caruso, a billionaire real estate developer, and Karen Bass, a long-time member of the House of Representatives, will compete against each other in a run-off election in November.

Neither candidate earned more than 50 per cent of the vote, which would have allowed them to win outright on Tuesday.

Ms Bass, who was once tipped as potential running mate for president Joe Biden, was widely seen as the front-runner in the crowded primary election for mayor before Mr. Caruso entered the field earlier this year.

Mr Caruso’s campaign spent nearly $41 million, including $39 million of his own money — much of it on television, digital and radio ads — portraying him as a successful businessman who could “clean up” Los Angeles.

Mr Caruso, a former republican who only switched to become a Democrat this year, suggested the city was in deep decay. He promised to hire 1,500 more police officers and build 30,000 shelter beds in 300 days. This message seemed to resonate with many voters who were unhappy at the growing homelessness problem in Los Angeles.

Ms Bass’ team expect her to be able to consolidate support in the November election among both local and national Democrats, which they believe will persuade voters in the overwhelmingly left-leaning city.

However, a victory for Mr Caruso would be a significant shift in this overwhelmingly liberal city, where Senator Bernie Sanders easily won the Democratic presidential primary two years ago.

Separately, the oldest republican senator has won his party’s nomination to stand again for the party in November.

Charles Grassley, who is currently 88, beat off a challenger for the right to run for the republicans in Iowa who had criticised him for voting for some measures backed by president Joe Biden.

Grassley is running for an eighth term in the senate. He has been on Capitol Hill as a politician, initially in the House of Representatives, since 1975.

If re-elected in November he would be 95 at the end of his next term in office.