After Recent Recall, Boudin Rules Out November Run for SF DA

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A man handing out flyers in front of a bus
District Attorney Chesa Boudin hands out voter guides at Mission and Geneva streets in San Francisco on June 7, 2022. (Beth LaBerge/KQED)

Chesa Boudin, who served as San Francisco’s district attorney for 2.5 years until voters recalled him in June, announced Thursday via Twitter that he would not be a candidate for DA in the November election.

After voters passed Proposition H by 55% to 45% recalling Boudin from office, some thought he might be tempted to run again, a possibility he initially refused to rule out.

But in a long Twitter thread, Boudin cited concerns about his family in taking himself out of contention.

“I’m committed to criminal justice reform; I’m also committed to my family,” Boudin tweeted. “My son is on the verge of taking his first step and speaking his first word. My wife’s research on Multiple Sclerosis at UCSF deserves the same support she has offered my work. My elderly father just came home from prison after more than 40 years.”

Saying he was still committed to the kind of criminal justice reform he enacted as DA, Boudin said “I’m putting my family first.”

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After the recall, Mayor London Breed named Brooke Jenkins, a former deputy DA who quit the office to help with the recall. And Jenkins has wasted no time reversing some of Boudin’s policies.

On Wednesday for example, Jenkins announced she was revoking what she called more than 30 “lenient” plea deals Boudin offered to people arrested for selling drugs like fentanyl.

“Open-air drug markets have ravaged our city, especially neighborhoods like the Tenderloin and south of Market. We cannot stand by while these neighborhoods continue to suffer with violence and drug dealing happening openly on their streets,” Jenkins said. “My new policy will prohibit drug dealers arrested with more than five grams of fentanyl or a controlled substance from being referred to our Community Justice Court, which has been abused for the last two-and-a-half years.”

Jenkins also announced that unlike her predecessor, she would consider enhanced charges for people caught selling drugs within 1,000 feet of schools.

While Jenkins insists she supports criminal justice reform and agrees that the so-called “War on Drugs” was a failure, she said her new policy is mostly reverting back to practices in place before Boudin took office and would target sellers, not users of illegal drugs.

Nonetheless, in his Twitter thread Boudin expressed doubts about the new direction his successor was taking.

“I am gravely concerned by what I’ve seen from the current, appointed District Attorney,” he said. “We have heard no assurances that the successful programs we’ve implemented will continue, and indeed, we see worrying signs every day as progress is rolled back.”

Supporters of reform, including Boudin’s former chief-of-staff Cristine Soto DeBerry, said locking up sellers would not solve the problem of open-air drug dealing. The real solution, said DeBerry, was more treatment beds to address addiction.

“That approach does not work,” DeBerry said. “As we have seen literally now for 40 years, where there is a demand for the substance there will be a supply.”

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It may take years to know whether a tougher approach to crimes like drug dealing will really work. Meanwhile, Breed is cheering the change in tone coming from the new DA.

“Fentanyl is a deadly drug that is driving overdoses in our city. We are a city that believes in second chances, but we also cannot accept the open-air drug markets in San Francisco. Accountability has to be part of the equation,” Breed said on Twitter in support of Jenkins.

By taking himself out of the DA race, Boudin might be sparing the city a nasty and divisive campaign in the fall. As of Thursday, two other candidates will challenge Jenkins — civil rights attorney Joe Alioto Veronese and Maurice Chenier, according to the San Francisco Department of Elections website.

The deadline for filing papers to run for DA is Aug. 12.