San Francisco’s former district attorney, George Gascon, who left town before his term was finished so he could run for D.A. in Los Angeles, has a long history of going whichever way the winds blow, saying whatever suits his political purposes, and only looking out for himself.
Nevertheless, I was shocked to read how Gascon is now trying to explain why I, along with San Francisco’s well-respected city attorney, Dennis Hererra, oppose his candidacy. Gascon claims he “rattled cages” in San Francisco and that’s why our city’s top leaders oppose him.
This is nonsense. And I can speak for myself.
Like countless others who have witnessed Gascon’s brand of “leadership” up close, I have opposed his candidacy from the start, and for very simple reasons: Gascon was bad for San Francisco, and he would be bad for LA.
When Gascon was first brought to San Francisco by then-Mayor Gavin Newsom, he was recruited from conservative Mesa, Ariz. He’d been a registered Republican and was on the record supporting the use of the death penalty “in appropriate cases.”
Shortly into his tenure as police chief, Gascon enraged much of the community when he claimed that San Francisco is susceptible “to members of the city’s Middle Eastern community parking a van in front of [the Hall of Justice] and blowing it up.”
Later, when he decided to run for D.A., Gascon found it politically convenient to re-brand himself as a progressive. He reversed his position on the death penalty. He talked up the need for police reforms, even though he had instituted none when he was police chief.
The flip-flop got him elected, but it didn’t do much for reform efforts. While many of us were working to enact meaningful police reforms, Gascon failed to indict any of the officers involved in a series of high-profile shootings. Communities of color continued to suffer disproportionately from violence on our city’s streets, even as the D.A.’s office became increasingly cavalier toward victims of violence.
Experienced public servants left Gascon’s notoriously mismanaged office in droves. When a senior prosecutor blew the whistle on Gascon carrying a concealed weapon on commercial flights, Gascon retaliated by having him fired. The city was forced to pay $400,000 to settle the wrongful termination case.
Losing support on all sides in San Francisco, Gascon announced he would not run for re-election, because he wanted to “spend more time with [his] mother.” Then he resigned before his term was over, and less than a month after that, filed to run for D.A. in LA.
I grew up in public housing, and as an adult, I’ve lived and worked in the very communities we talk about when we say “Black Lives Matter.” Before I ever ran for public office, when Gascon was a new D.A. and I was running a community center in San Francisco’s historically Black Fillmore District, Gascon showed how little actual Black lives matter to him.
A young Black man found himself in the wrong place at the wrong time: a streetfight that resulted in a deadly shooting. I knew the young man from my community center, knew he was not a violent person, and learned he had no part in the shooting. I reached out to D.A. Gascon, pleading with him not to ruin this young man’s life by treating him like one of the shooters. But Gascon wasn’t interested.
Eventually, the charges against the young man were dismissed, but not before his life was totally derailed. Gascon, who now portrays himself as a flagbearer for the Black Lives Matter movement, wasn’t willing to lift a finger for that young man’s Black life.
As L.A. voters are asked to consider George Gascon, I hope they will take into account both his poor record as a D.A. and his lack of character as a public servant. And to the Black voters, in particular, whom Gascon is so eagerly courting: I don’t believe we need self-serving “allies” who are only there for us when it suits their needs, we need true partners who will stand with us through thick and thin in the ongoing fight for justice for all. George Gascon is not that person.
London N. Breed is the 45th Mayor San Francisco.