Chesa Boudin standing above a crowd with a microphone in his hand.
Vanquished DA Chesa Boudin stood atop a beer keg to address his supporters at his election night gathering at The Ramp. Photo by William Jenkins

CLICK HERE FOR SAN FRANCISCO RESULTS, ANALYSIS, MAPS AND GRAPHICS

San Francisco is a mid-sized North American city. It has almost exactly the same population as Columbus, Ohio. It’s about 15 percent larger than Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. 

Those two cities, for good or ill, don’t captivate the national imagination. But this one does. You don’t hear about “Columbus values” or a “Winnipeg liberal,” but “San Francisco” does serve as a modifier. “San Francisco” is a metonym. Things happen everywhere, but in San Francisco, Things Matter. 

As such, in 2014, four Smart cars were tipped over in San Francisco in the course of a week and it became fodder for international news stories. And that was odd: People flip over Smart cars enough there’s even a term for it: “Smart tipping.” All it takes are large men, small cars, too much alcohol and not enough brainpower; San Francisco’s hilly streets probably help, too.  

But those stories searched for deeper meanings behind all this. Because in San Francisco, Things Matter; surely, this Means Something.

In the present day, veteran city operatives backed by oodles of cash from extremely wealthy funders and their PAC have managed to tip over San Francisco’s progressive district attorney. 

Despite the fervent behavior on display in the weeks leading up to the election, voters writ large were not worked up: Turnout was paltry. Low turnout was actually probably the last remaining hope for DA Chesa Boudin, as he polled best with high-information, high-propensity voters. But there weren’t enough of them to save the DA: With nearly 128,000 votes tallied (26 percent turnout), he trails by almost exactly a 60-40 split.

It is hard to foresee knowledgeable and grounded reactions from out-of-town publications — not when two of the big ones have already burnished the liberal bona fides of one of this city’s most prolific establishment kneecappers, or centered a story around the worldview of a clownish GOP mayoral contender, whom it erroneously credited for qualifying the recall. 

Yes, San Francisco dumping its progressive DA Means Something. But it doesn’t mean everything, and it doesn’t necessarily validate the pre-existing worldviews of authoritarian TV hosts or Substack opinion-havers for whom San Francisco serves as an allegory, concept and modifier more than as a city. 

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San Franciscans’ hearty rejection of Boudin Means Something, and says something about the state of criminal justice reform and limits of liberalism. But, in the end, it says more about San Francisco. More on that in a moment.

See also: The better the Chesa Boudin recall does, the worse the $400 million Muni bond will do.

Photo of Chesa Boudin by Julian Mark; photo illustration by Abraham Rodriguez.

To start with, any claim that San Francisco voters rejected Boudin’s policies or ideals would first require San Franciscans to have accepted them. There is no indication this ever occurred: Boudin, in 2019, won with a plurality of first-place votes in a razor-thin ranked-choice contest in a low-turnout election aided in no small part by the mayor’s heavy handed appointment of his main rival to the vacant DA post. That was crass: An operative in a rival campaign told me at the time, “if Chesa wins, this is why.” 

So, that happened. And, as we wrote in 2019, it was unclear if San Francisco voters were enthralled by Boudin’s ideas, or simply rewarded the best-run campaign. 

Boudin triumphed, with 36 percent of first-place votes in an election that only featured 42-percent turnout. But he governed as if he had a mandate. He never had a coalition comprising 50+1 percent of the electorate, and cementing one was not a goal. And that left Boudin vulnerable to a recall — and, once one made the ballot aided by bottomless wells of cash distributed via a veritable matryoshka of political action committees, Boudin was behind the eight-ball. There were no opponents to run against — Larry Elder will not become DA after Boudin leaves office — and this DA never had majority support. 

To reject Boudin’s ideas, voters would also have to, you know, reject his ideas. For what it’s worth, Boudin’s ideas polled better than Boudin. Multiple surveys revealed pluralities or majorities of San Francisco voters support many of Boudin’s signature liberal policies. Despite the persistent drum beat of out-of-control crime sold by the recall campaign, crime is more rampant in municipalities overseen by traditional, law-and-order DAs. One of them, Sacramento DA Anne Marie Schubert, was on the ballot, running for Attorney General. 

As June 7 wound down, Schubert had 7.6 percent of the vote statewide, and was the choice of 6.8 percent of San Franciscans. (While we’re at it, populist gubernatorial hopeful Michael Shellenberger polled more like a nothingburger: He captured 3.3 percent of the vote statewide and 4.4 percent here in San Francisco).

Neighborhood

Turnout %

Lake Merced

22.5

Visitacion Valley

15.8

Marina/Pacific Heights

23.8

Sunset

22.1

Portola

17.6

Chinatown

21

Seacliff/Presidio Heights

29.4

West Twin Peaks

27.2

SoMa

18.7

Excelsior

18.3

Richmond

22.8

Ingleside

18.1

Bayview Hunters Point

13.4

Laurel Heights/Anza

22.3

North Embarcadero

22.7

Civic Center/Downtown

19.7

Diamond Heights

25.4

Potrero Hill

19.4

Western Addition

19.4

Upper Market, Eureka

27.1

Noe Valley

25.9

Inner Sunset

21.2

Mission

20.9

Haight Ashbury

18.1

South Bernal Heights

21.5

North Bernal Heights

22.6

0

10

20

30

40

50

60

70

80

90

100

Yes/no votes

Lake Merced

Visitacion Valley

Marina/Pacific Heights

Sunset

Portola

Chinatown

Seacliff/Presidio Heights

West Twin Peaks

SoMa

Excelsior

Richmond

Ingleside

Bayview Hunters Point

Laurel Heights/Anza

North Embarcadero

Civic Center/Downtown

Diamond Heights

Potrero Hill

Western Addition

Upper Market, Eureka

Noe Valley

Inner Sunset

Mission

Haight Ashbury

S Bernal Heights

N Bernal Heights

0

20

40

60

80

100

Yes/no votes

Chart by Will Jarrett. Data from the San Francisco Department of Elections.

Is San Francisco a template for other cities or states with vulnerable prosecutors? Possibly, but the bar to qualify a recall in San Francisco — signatures from 10 percent of the electorate — is about as low as it is anywhere, making this city an outlier. And if the pro-recall forces end up spending $8 million to $10 million to win a majority of votes in an election where only 140,000 or so people bother to return their ballots, the cost-per-vote will be prohibitive. 

Rather, the introspection here should be local, as much, or more, than global. San Francisco voters like to think of themselves as liberal, but were, in large part, swayed by a fear-based campaign not so different than the Willie Horton ads Lee Atwater cooked up in 1988. Symposiums could be taught regarding how to convince voters that the district attorney is the problem in a city where the police arrest rate is historically low, and has been for years

San Franciscans are not wholly rejecting reform, but it’s hard to foresee even our “liberal” voters reacting poorly to a future DA announcing he or she is going to aggressively prosecute and incarcerate dope dealers, serial car thieves, etc. And that tracks: When it comes to bringing our own bags to the grocery store or marching in the streets to protest abortion crackdowns in Alabama, San Francisco is solidly blue. But, when it comes to less clear-cut and closer-to-home issues, like criminal justice reform, San Francisco voters indicate they like the concept of them — but, it seems, only so long as they remain conceptual.

Would-be District Attorneys (from left) Leif Dautch, Nancy Tung, Chesa Boudin, and Suzy Loftus made their case Wednesday night at a Latino Democratic Club forum. May 2019 photo by Julian Mark.

If you were to look at the professed interests of voters in Rep. Nancy Pelosi’s district on this handy dandy feature, you’ll find that police reform is a low priority. Perhaps that would’ve been different in the summer of George Floyd two years ago, but San Francisco has moved on; the Black Lives Matter posters are sun-bleached and neglected in the windows of the city’s $2 million homes. 

San Francisco Mayor London Breed, who is African American, never really defunded the police, but now she doesn’t even have to bother with any budgeting sleight-of-hand to even pretend we’re doing so. She’s going all-in on hiring more police and raising their budget, and recently tapped the police department strategist to fill a vacant supervisor slot.

Many of the issues that most bedevil San Francisco voters are actually under the aegis of the mayor, not the DA, but it’s the DA who will be recalled for them. He has served as a most effective human shield, and when he’s gone, likely by month’s end, the mayor will name his replacement. 

This city’s voters have moved on because they can afford to, physically and metaphysically. Many San Franciscans now seem to simultaneously desire the vibrancy of a big city, but expect the safety and security of the suburban towns where they grew up. And there is simply not a strong base of African American voters here who would form a natural constituency to elect, and re-elect, a reform DA, as there is elsewhere. In Philadelphia, where DA Larry Krasner won re-election with nearly 70 percent of the vote, African Americans make up some 40 percent of the population. That’s around eight times the proportion of San Francisco. 

For these voters, the effects of aggressive, punitive policing and prosecution is no theory. That’s their families that have been broken up, their relatives who have been incarcerated. For generations, the success of a DA was essentially gauged in how effectively he or she could do this.  

On the same night San Francisco recalled its progressive DA, a progressive prosecutor took the lead in Alameda County, a far more populous county than San Francisco, where violent crime well and truly is a problem, both statistically as well as anecdotally. The police-endorsed DA candidate is losing to a progressive in Contra Costa County as well. Schubert, again, finished a distant fourth in the AG race. But, apparently, “California sent Democrats and the nation a message on crime.”

In San Francisco, meanwhile, the last Black neighborhood is the county jail. And that’s the way things were before we recalled the progressive DA. 

This, again, is the city whose very name is a stand-in for liberal values. And, when you think about it, that Means Something.

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A preliminary version of this column ran within our election coverage on June 7.

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Managing Editor/Columnist. Joe was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left.

“Your humble narrator” was a writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015, and a senior editor at San Francisco Magazine from 2015 to 2017. You may also have read his work in the Guardian (U.S. and U.K.); San Francisco Public Press; San Francisco Chronicle; San Francisco Examiner; Dallas Morning News; and elsewhere.

He resides in the Excelsior with his wife and three (!) kids, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.

The Northern California branch of the Society of Professional Journalists named Eskenazi the 2019 Journalist of the Year.

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101 Comments

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  1. Repeating a comment …

    June 12, 20220Edit Post
    Post for Standard to start my Sunday
    Campers,

    Difference Billionaires scored with ten million was 21,000.

    That’s off a base of half a million voters.

    They’ll have to spend 100 million in November to maintain that gap.

    Still don’t think they can do it.

    What they picked up Tuesday were carefully ripened and harvested low fruit.

    The general population sways and votes with more reason and less passion.

    Key lies in how fair are population of influencers; reporters and editors and gadflies such as myself.

    Gonzalez thinks Chesa should consider challenging Breed for Mayor next years instead.

    Could win there.

    Go Warriors !!

    h.

  2. The problem with idealists, they’ve got their eyes on a bright shiny future and are blind to the reality right in front of them. Having a dream doesn’t do any good if you don’t haver a plan. And rising above negative politics doesn’t mean you don’t need to be prepared for it.

  3. A great article, I don’t agree entirely, but most of it, and as usual, very well written.

    I wouldn’t mind reading a list of the most out of town, out of touch takes from left and right, not just for the recall, but back easter dead enders telling us all about crime in San Francisco with looneys telling us it was completely justified (Walgreens steals wages from their employees, so it’s okay for randos to shoplift from Walgreens) to others proclaiming civilization was coming to the end.

    1. Yes, I suspect going after corporate wage theft was a large motivating factor for the millions dropped into this, as smash & grab and retail theft are a drop in the bucket compared to what’s stolen on the regular from the working class. That, and being the first DA to actually prosecute a police officer who murdered another human.

  4. Are we all reading the same article? Joe’s main point is to refute the idea that the Boudin recall represents something broad and meaningful about liberalism, progressivism, or Democratic politics beyond San Francisco’s borders. And he makes his point well.

    Boudin is out. If you voted Yes on H, that result should please you. Instead, the commenters here who supported the recall seem to be very mad indeed that they aren’t being praised for their righteousness. If you want emotional validation, go walk a dog. If you want ideas and information, read the news.

  5. I opposed the recall. Boudin was doing what he was elected to do. The fickle public has acted impetuously and stupidly, in my opinion.

  6. I’ve spent the last year living in Oakland and recently moved into SF. I don’t think this is what most people believe, what you wrote in this article. Perusing several social media sites have made it clear that while we don’t necessarily think people should be going to prison, not active reforms have actually taken place and crime is rampant as many stores and individuals are violently attacked around the city with zero repercussions for their actions.

  7. San Francisco has about 500,000 registered voters. Fewer than 90,000 voted to recall Boudin. Most of San Francisco’s voters did not bother to speak.

    1. h., in addition to being the consistent objects of your idolization, Chesa, Gonzo, and Campos all share the dubious distinction of having been voted out of office of having lost their last elections.

      But if you’d like to continue dreaming of their return to power with a ferocity of faith rivaled only by Trumpers, best of luck!

      What do they say the definition is of doing the same thing and expecting different results?

      Go sports!

      -K

  8. My issue with Boudin’s removal isn’t Boudin (I’m not his biggest fan) but the susceptibility of so many of my fellow citizens to fearmongering by a shady well-funded ad campaign. Recent abuse of recalls has made that power more of a bug than a feature of government by the people, and the success of this one will no doubt encourage further abuse by bad-faith actors.

  9. Much better analysis of the recall than anything the Chronicle has been capable of except for one piece by Heather Knight. Really good points. Boudin was literally never elected by most of the voters who cast ballots. And so his reforms were never bought into by the public. They were foisted on us by his loud mouth afterward and his loud cronies like Supes Ronin and Preston and the group-anti-racist-hug that is the modern Chron. But one small point I would differ with you on, you say, “Many San Franciscans now seem to simultaneously desire the vibrancy of a big city, but expect the safety and security of the suburban towns where they grew up.” I’m in my seventies and have lived here since I was 22 and so I can actually remember when this big city was cleaner and safer. San Francisco had hippies, we had black neighborhoods that were scary to some but we didn’t have open drug use, open camping outside, or a lot of shoplifting. It was an incredibly cleaner and safer city than people in their 50’s and younger can possibly imagine! And it was here. Right here amid the same buidings you see now. Next time you pass United Nations Plaza try to remember a time when no junkies were there. Mostly just sea gulls!

  10. It’s always fascinating listening to people who capitalize black but not White try to lecture others on anything to do with race.

    No sense of irony.

  11. The “Best City Ever” is going through a rough patch. Having lived here since 1976, I know this for a fact. Bad governance is the problem. Recalling a well-intentioned, but totally incompetent DA will not fix the problem, but it is a start. People who believe that it is OK to have the mentally ill (and dysfunctional drug addicts) living on our streets are themselves a bit mentally ill. Hard-working, law-abiding citizens deserve to live in a city where crime is not tolerated. You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind is blowing. I for one, am glad that it seems to be blowing back to a world of sanity.

  12. It’s time to tell the truth. Turnout was 46% which was higher than in 2019 when Boudin was elected. And previously strong support for him went the other way in the Tenderloin, SOMA, and Bayview who overwhelmingly voted in favor of recall. The entire basis for your article is B.S.

  13. It’s always racism or reverse racism Joe. Fact is all feces looks and smells the same. When the lunatics run the asylum… society pays the price.

  14. San Francisco has the same issues as there is in Portland. High cost of living, enormous taxes placed on middle class, no treatment facilities for homeless drug addicts on the streets and a high crime rate due to a lack of policing real criminals. Of course most that deny this to be true, never have to witness these problems or addressing the reality of policies unless it comes home to their doorstep. We need to start looking ourselves in the mirror than blaming everything else, otherwise there will be losses in the upcoming elections that can not be made up for the next 20 years.

  15. Joe excellent interview on the majority report this morning. You laid out the situation perfectly.

  16. “And there is simply not a strong base of African American voters here who would form a natural constituency to elect, and re-elect, a reform DA, as there is elsewhere. In Philadelphia, where DA Larry Krasner won re-election with nearly 70 percent of the vote, African Americans make up some 40 percent of the population.”

    In the one neighborhood in SF that has a strong base of African American voters — Bayview/Hunters Point — 62% of the ballots were in favor of the recall.

    1. Wrong! African Americans are not majority in Bayview/Hunter’s Point. They make up only 28% of the population there while the majority is made up of Asians per Planning Department’s own demographic data. So quit calling Bayview/Hunter’s Point as majority African American. Secondly, per stats in this article, only 13% of Bayview/Hunter’s Point showed up to vote. That is the failure of get out the vote and not reflective of the preference of the black population in this neighborhood.

  17. If you look at the 2019 results, Boudin got about 36% of the first round vote. He got 40% (as of this writing) in the recall election. So the same people that had him as first choice in 2019 still supported him in 2022. So this result is certainly no surprise. The man laid out his agenda before the 2019 election and pretty much followed through on it. And the same people that did not support that agenda in 2019 didn’t support it in 2022.

    1. FBI investigation into corruption at City Hall ongoing. Eskenazi and Mission Local have done excellent coverage of it so far. I’m not a fan of recalls unless the elected has actually committed a crime, is corrupt, engaged in pay to play etc.

    2. I suspect that Chesa was recalled not for his stance on criminal justice reform. But rather (and the otherwise nuanced article above seems to fall silent on) a more nuanced refutation of his actual job performance. We have an adversarial justice system, and in my opinion he gave mere lip service to his role in aggressively pursuing his responsibilities of being an advocate on behalf of the government and the people it represents.

  18. You say “there is simply not a strong base of African American voters here who would form a natural constituency to elect, and re-elect, a reform DA, as there is elsewhere,” yet don’t explain why the predominantly African American neighborhoods in SF (Bayview/Hunters Pt, Crocker Amazon, etc) overwhelmingly voted against Boudin.

  19. This erudite intellectualizing masks the need to fix the mess SF is in. The DA was a symbol of sinking deeper in “everything goes, but conservative solutions” fluids permeating all of the city.

    Nothing will change because the self-image of SF citizens is progressivism bent on change at all cost, and on destruction of traditions.

    Good riddance Boudin , but San Francisco in on a slippery slope to becoming another failed utopia.

  20. I’m an SF resident and view the recall through the lens of SF as a whole — our city is dysfunctional. Despite having a per-capita budget that is the largest in the nation, we have nothing to show for it. Our politicians dine at the French Laundry. They party in bars while flaunting the mask mandates that they imposed. The police largely ignore property crimes. And small businesses and local workers pay extra to live here. So how could the plurality of residents not be incensed? I fundamentally believe that many of Chesa’s beliefs have merit. However, he was tone deaf on hate crimes (remember his “temper tantrum” description of the killing of Mr. Ratanapkadee?), his relationship with the SFPD was in tatters, and he was unwilling to adjust his approach to meet voter needs. As a result of these factors and more, he was recalled. I think this a step in the right direction for the city — especially because it should rightfully force others from the mayor to the chief of police to honestly appraise their performance and actually start working to fix the city. If they don’t, I’m hopeful that SF residents will continue to use their votes to usher in an entirely new generation of public servants. And when I say public servant, remember that the major and chief of police are paid $400K and over $300K per year, repectively — excluding pensions.

    1. I hope so as well, but the mayor wasn’t on the ballot and I haven’t seen many recall supporters talking about her responsibility or SFPD’s. Sadly, this recall gives them no incentive to change their behavior. The Tenderloin was an open-air drug market and injection site back when I worked at Civic Center in 2015. And you can’t blame Chesa for that. He’s a crappy politician and a terrible office manager, but despite some of the pearl-clutching rhetoric, he’s not a Marvel supervillain. I have zero expectation that a new, more well-connected friend of London Breed as DA will change anything. We still have basically the same folks at City Hall and SFPD as in 2015, so I’m expecting the same non-results.

  21. Some good points but missing many major other ones…Chesa lied with half truths on community calls, picked fights with the police who then were too scared to arrest and created a perception (right or wrong) that SF was not enforcing law which created an environment of lawlessness….which indeed attracted criminals. The DA Job is to prosecute criminals and shape the safety of the city. He simply did not do this. It wasn’t the “dark money” that led me to vote for the recall…just talking to police and looking out of my window .

  22. These commentators (and commenters) who insist that the people have spoken aren’t looking at the numbers. About 73,000 people voted for Chesa Boudin as their 1st choice candidate in 2019. Around 76,000 voted to recall him in the June 2022 election — almost the same number. The difference is that a larger number of voters ranked Chesa 2nd in 2019; in 2022 there was a minuscule turnout. It was recall by minority, so claims that the city “has spoken” are suspect.

    1. Gotta correct these stats: 68,800 first-choice votes for Chesa in 2019. (The first one was my estimate, the second comes from actual polling data, so more accurate.) It doesn’t change the point I’m making here.

    2. I didn’t realize there are almost half to the ballots (estimated 100k left) to count for this election! So the numbers will look different over the next few days. ¯\_ (ツ)_/¯

      1. all you are doing is pointing out the flaws in ranked choice voting
        and there are still 100k ballots left to count

        1. Well, those 100k ballots were waaay overestimated. Turns out there were only about 13,000 extra ballots left to count. 81,728 voted to recall Chesa Boudin, only 13k more than voted for him as their first choice in a ranked choice system (and 5k fewer than ranked him 1st, 2nd or 3rd on that ballot). Pretty poor showing overall. My point is (and has always been) that the recall is not the massive “people’s victory” that certain early commenters we’re calling it.

          1. Sir or madam — 

            You are mistaken. After tabulating roughly 13,500 ballots and announcing the results today, about 87,000 remain.

            JE

          2. Thanks, Joe, for the clarification! The SF Department of Elections website is confusing. Since your post I was able to find the updates on counts on their Twitter page, but I wish they had more clarifications on their website.

    3. > claims that the city “has spoken” are suspect.

      If a person didn’t vote, do you think they were:

      1. very much pro recall
      2. very much anti-recall
      3. very much undecided about the recall

      As we all know, ballots are mailed to each and every voter.

      Unless you’re saying voting should be mandatory, I think the voters who remained silent were making their voices heard.

      1. So my initial point kind of doesn’t stand now given that 40%+ of registered voters voted. But what I was commenting on were the recall supporters who were enthusiastically representing the success of the recall as a citywide consensus. I agree with you that the turnout of less than 50% suggests the consensus is “huh?/meh.”

  23. It is really very gratifying to see that the overwhelmingly majority of San Franciscans, in virtually every single neighborhood were able to see through the lies of Boudin and Campos and vote to recall this monster. With the exception of a few trust fund hipsters recently arrived to the City and ensconced in Bernal Heights, the Mission, and the Haight, San Franciscans of all types united to save our City. For those folks who foolishly voted against the recall, we need to work to educate them. Any criminal who litters, murders, violates sit-lie laws, steals bikes, pollutes, or rapes needs to be off the streets and in prison. No exceptions. It is great to see that voters also overwhelmingly voted against the Vladimir Putin/ Greg Abbott-style voter suppression law called Prop C. The supervisors who supported it should be held to account.

    1. Littering deserves jail? Sounds like you want an authoritarian state just so you can avoid real policy analysis.

  24. Thank you so much to all of my neighbors who gathered petitions, voted and donated time and money to save our City. Boudin’s incompetence, corruption, cruelty, and arrogance have harmed all of us and taken countless lives. We stopped him and we need to work together to remove any member of the Board of Supervisors who did not support the recall, very much including my own supervisor Hilary Ronen. We have a chance to vote out the corrupt supervisors in even numbered districts who chose crime and power over the lives of the most vulnerable San Franciscans in November. Let’s focus on defeating the incumbents in Districts 4 and 10 in particular. Also, let’s recall the District 5, 9, 3, and 1 supervisors, as they are not up for re-election this year.

    1. Yeah. Let’s recall any democratically elected office holder with whom we disagree. Can we also gouge their eyes out and crucify them? That would be SO much fun. Not.

  25. This is truly one of the best days in the history of our City. David Campos and Chesa Boudin are the Donald Trumps of San Francisco. This is an apt description not just because of their extremism, but also because of their cruelty, dishonesty, inability to take responsibility for their actions, hubris, and opposition to empirical data-driven assessment. I also have noticed that, quite unlike mainstream liberals and moderates, so-called “progressive” extremists like Campos, Boudin, Preston, and Ronen tend to be particularly racist, sexist, and ageist. Although they claim the positive sounding “progressive” label, a better term would be ‘regressive’ or ‘faux-gressive’. Their policies hurt everyone, especially the most vulnerable, namely victims of crime in the case of Boudin.

  26. I live in San Francisco, voted to recall Boudin and yes I wanted to send a message that extreme pro-crime positions are not welcome here or anywhere. And I wasn’t the only one. So perhaps Eskenazi speaks for some well-to-do privileged white liberals in the Mission who don’t have to worry about their car or their home being broken into or being harassed on Muni or Bart but for most of us crime was everywhere and the way Boudin was ignoring and encouraging it was the real issue.

  27. There are lots of stats floating around that say that crime hasn’t increased, and that Boudin’s office has prosecuted high percentages of the crimes that get assigned to his office. What these stats fail to take into account is that two people **per day** are dying of fentanyl overdoses, mostly in the Tenderloin. This is double last year’s rate. I voted for the recall not because of the crime stats, but because Boudin refused to prosecute open-air drug use and drug sales in my neighborhood. Period.

  28. This author is delusional. The media is out of touch. Boudin thinks you can talk to criminals about their feelings, like it is some kind of yoga retreat and the world will get better. The guy is out of his mind.

  29. Now the Mayor MUST own crime under her +10 year career at City Hall. She doesn’t have a scapegoat like Boudin any longer. Will she declare a 3rd State of Emergency in the Tenderloin to play to the FOX and CNN redmeat media morons? And what’s the status if the ongoing FBI investigation of corruption and pay to play at City Hall where at least a dozen of the Mayor’s appointees were caught red handed and made to resign? Looking at you London.

  30. The last few paragraphs of this piece are pure nonsense. The black neighborhoods overwhelmingly voted in favor of the recall. As did the Asian neighborhoods. This recall had nothing to do with racial issues. San Franciscans are tired of the omnipresent “quality of life crimes” that Chesa simply does not think should be prosecuted. In his defense, he said as much before the prior election – which is why I did not for him then and voted to recall him now. Maybe voters in 2019 did not think he meant it, but when they found out that he did, they wanted none of it.

    The police need to do their jobs as well, but that does not excuse a prosecutor who simply is not interested in prosecuting large categories of bad conduct that the legislature has deemed to be punishable crimes. “Reform” does not mean simply refusing to prosecute.

  31. “Many San Franciscans now seem to simultaneously desire the vibrancy of a big city — but expect the safety and security of the suburban towns where they grew up.”

    This. You’ll be hard pressed to find an area as squalid and crime ridden as SFs Tenderloin anywhere in the world, but the SF progressive retort to this fact is always, “Go back to Walnut Creek if you don’t like it!”. Why is it that progressives have no respect for people who believe society should have some sort of baseline of decency or semblance of sanity? Why don’t progressives want to live in a civil society?

    1. Not to mention the families that have to live in the Tenderloin because they’re too poor to live somewhere else, or they’re refugees just getting started in this country.

      Here’s an open secret: almost no one who runs any of the nonprofits in the Tenderloin lives in the Tenderloin. They all come in (like most of the drug dealers) from the East Bay & North Bay, enable really crappy behavior that hurts poor and working class people, and head back to their safe suburban lives. Look it up. St Anthony’s, Glide, THC, the list goes on.

    2. Their ideology reins supreme with leftists, in fact we can label it ideological supremacism. They think the ends justifies the means and they are NEVER wrong, no matter how toxic the society they create becomes (exactly how communism played out over decades). Boudin him self delivered a fiery speech to a crowd of supporters in San Francisco, leading them in chants of “Our cause is righteous!

  32. There will be plenty of spin to try to explain Boudin’s loss. “See! Look at the neighborhoods who voted to recall him! All rich White republicans! See! See! REAL San Franciscans voted No! SEE It was “SHADOWY BILLIONAIRES!”

    Boudin lost because he was BAD at his job. Not because “The Marina” voted him out. He failed to clearly articulate how the policies he was pursuing were helping make the city safer. He stomped his feet and blamed EVERYONE else for his missteps,

    He flat out denied the painfully clear increase in property crime, citing massaged stats that only counted reported crimes. He completely failed to grasp that his job was a POLITICAL one and he needed to win the support of the electorate every day, not just their votes on election day.

    I don’t think Boudin is a bad guy, and I honestly believe he wanted to make SF a better, safer and fairer place. But belief in the nobility of your cause alone won’t do that. You need to bring the people of the city along with you and show clear visible progress in making SF a safer city. When a penny falling out of your pocket and being visible on your car seat pretty much guarantees that your car window will be smashed, people will not be willing to wait out long term reform experiments in “De-carceration”

    The DA alone cannot fix these problems but the DA needs to be the public face and voice of the effort. He never did that. Blaming his lack of support on pretty much everyone else. (The police, right wing billionaires, the media, etc. etc..)
    It wasn’t that Boudin was “too progressive” it was because he just wasn’t very good at the job.

    That is why he lost.

    1. “David”,

      Precisely — Boudin was incapable of competently managing the office the DA.

  33. Great article, Joe! Don’t get disheartened by the ideologue commenters who don’t even live here and probably haven’t even been exposed to the incompetence, laziness, and racism of SFPD. We have to face the inconvenient truth: Black Lives DON’T MATTER to San Franciscans despite their window signs. It was no surprise to see uppity white neighborhoods voting for recall even though they were the least impacted by crime in the City but you can draw only one conclusion when you see Bay View/Hunter’s Point voting overwhelmingly for the recall: poorly run campaign and a failure to get out the vote.

    In an election that only 25% of San Franciscans voted, we would have had a chance to defeat the recall if we had mobilized better. Door knocking works, phone banking doesn’t. Driving people to voting booths works, hanging signs on door knobs doesn’t.

    But let’s not forget that this city is too rich and too white to feel the pain of injustice and the impact of the police misconduct.

    1. Those on the far right love to blame shadowy figures like George Soros and the Deep State trying to control and manipulate everything. Looks like those on the far left and those are on the far right are just 2 sides of the same coin. Whenever you lose an election, just make excuses about how the other side somehow cheated instead of trying to understand opposing point of views. Narrow minded idiots living in a fantasy bubble.

    2. Rich white people were the biggest demographic for Boudin supporters. Look at the results in Hunters’ point and other crime affected areas. You are living in an echo chamber.

    3. But San Francisco is not too rich and too white, to feel the pain of car break ins, burglaries, shootings (remember Courtney Brousseau?) and the impact of criminals released to offend over and over..

    4. Actually, you can draw another conclusion if you have ever followed an election before 2022: black Democrats tend to be among the most conservative of Democrats. It’s white liberals who want pro-crime DAs. Not black Democrats. Look at the voting record elsewhere.

  34. Chesa stated (see his quotes below) that he would not prosecute quality of life crimes. Well guess what? 60% of us want to have a nice quality of life. Do we want every little infraction to be prosecuted? No. But you at least need the threat / possibility of punishment to keep some bad behaviors / serial offenders in check. When you have the DA making statements like the ones below, bad behavior gets out of control and most folks don’t want that.

    “We will not prosecute cases involving quality-of-life crimes. Crimes such as public camping, offering or soliciting sex, public urination, blocking a sidewalk, etc., should not and will not be prosecuted… open-air drug use and drug sales . . . technically victimless crimes”
    –EX-DA Chesa

  35. 15% of the electorate at $100/vote should not rule in San Francisco. Boudin hit the 40% progressive bench unlike the tainted Campos and SFUSD commissioners. It takes grassroots face to face organizing to make up the difference against big money.

    Hopefully Boudin runs again in November and uses the campaign to build a grassroots neighborhood progressive infrastructure that was squandered by the city funded poverty nonprofits after 2008.

    By that time, the new DA would have cracked down, the cops tired of working, and just like Frank Jordan’s Matrix Program, we’ll be right back where we are now by election time which will highlight the alt right gaslighting.

  36. Hi Joe. I generally like your articles and really appreciate your work. I personally felt very conflicted about the recall election, I think a lot of my acquaintances were. It felt like it was more a referendum on where people thought the city needed to go with regards to crime and punishment, than a referendum on Chesa Boudin himself.

    “San Francisco voters like to think of themselves as liberal” – I think a lot of us are liberal from a national perspective, but the majority here seems to be more moderate than many of the politicians that are representing us. Chesa Boudin is an example. The Campos versus Haney race is another example where votes are showing clear preferences for more moderate candidate (although I wouldn’t call Haney moderate from a national perspective, just a local perspective).

    “And there is simply not a strong base of African American voters here who would form a natural constituency to elect — and re-elect — a reform DA” – Areas with larger African American communities (Bayview Hunters Point) voted to recall Chesa by wide margins. Most of the few areas that seemed to have any interest in keeping a reform DA were areas I would not consider very diverse (Noe Valley, Bernal Heights, Inner Sunset).

  37. Congratulations rabid hoodwinked recall fever voters: you just handed our transactional, power tripping mayor her seventh or eighth appointment. Why are mayoral appointments bad for San Franciscans? Because they negate our collective power as voters to choose those we want in elected office. Also: mayoral appointees tend to only listen to their appointer (the mayor) and not us, the People. It is bewildering that the fever recall voters failed to comprehend the calculous behind this (and other)recall, and the erosion of democratic/ voter power that recalls do. Thanks to your short sighted rage and fury, the Mayor can appoint aLaw& Order type like current Pac Heights Supervisor Stefani, which will create yet another vacancy/opportunity for this Mayor to stack the deck against the People. Of all the recall fever voters i talked to, not a single one could tell me anything about specific actions they want the DA to take. Recall campaigns are easy: all you have to do is stoke fear and loathing. Leading and policy making are hard. This Mayor’s gratest skill is appointing people to elected office.

    1. One thing I don’t understand about the childish current crop of SF progressives is why you hate the mayor so much. Is she just the most convenient bogeyman?

      1. Joe, thanks for the update on the ballot count! It was hard to tell from the SF Department of Elections website if there were remaining ballots to be counted. Appreciate the clarity.

    2. True question, no malice: would you prefer voting for President and Attorney General and Secretary of State, etc etc down the cabinet or making sure that you pick the right president and trust her/his/their power to pick a cohesive team that would work together through a common goal for the entirety of their mandate? If so, why would local politics be different? The 4-year future of one city/town should be decided on one ballot that could only be changed again in 4 years, otherwise, you have a constant embattlement over micro-powers and nothing gets done.

      On the same (similar) token, I think recalls are an aberration. People need to make peace with election results or the recently battled democratic process will become even more weakened. Independently of ones beliefs, the base for any healthy representative democracy is the solidity of its institutions, the rule of law and respecting election results and elected officials. Anything different is a dictatorship or participative democracy, neither of which should even be discussed on the 21st century. But if there is one thing that History teaches you is that rarely (and unfortunately) one learns from History.

      This whole Boudin spectacle was very sad and, although there are a multitude of people to blame for it, the way San Francisco elections work should be looked as the main one.

    3. I can tell you what I want the new DA to do quite clearly: prosecute the fentanyl dealers in the Tenderloin. All of them. When new ones prop up, prosecute them. Do this as your number one priority, starting from your first day in office.

      1. @ Eric – so you voted to recall him for not doing something that it’s impossible to do? Yeah… that sure makes a whole lot of sense. I wish everyone was as all around an intelligent and thoughtful thinker like you are. Oh, you don’t understand what I’m talking about? Oh? Is that because you have no idea what you’re talking about??? I have to wonder. Do y even understand what the fentanyl situation is? Do you understand that there are no fentanyl dealers? There’s no such thing. Fentanyl for the most part pops up in other drugs. It’s a strengthening or cutting agent. But by all means, keep complaining that someone hasn’t done the impossible, and keep bulldozing through society, a destructive retarded bull in a China shop whose frothing at the mouth screaming for bloody vengeance for a crime with no perpetrators. Can you also walk and chew bubble gum at the same time? Its really hard. Not everyone can do it. But if you practice for a few years, Eric, I believe that you too can one day, maybe in ten years, walk and chew bubble gum at the same time. Way to go, Eric!!!! Ya did it!!’

  38. I don’t want “the suburbs”; I just want to be able to go for a morning walk without being attacked by a homeless person, get poop thrown at my by a homeless person, and be able to go to Walgreens to buy cold medicine without being caught up in the middle of blatant theft.

    1. No, you were duped by right wing money and the propaganda of the press! But this is a local problem now that Boudin lost! That’s the ticket!

  39. And so the Boudinic went down. The open questions remain though, which have always been in the court of the legislature. In a way, Boudin’s been a distraction from actually working on things. Hey, what do we need to bring our laws into the 21st century when a DA can fix it?

  40. FYI I live on Geary, right where Japantown and the Western Addition meet. I’m disappointed about Boudin’s recall. If those who voted yes really think a more aggressively punitive approach will make us safer, just wait. We’ll continue to grow an over-policed underclass that is socially, economically, educationally and racially segregated. And these fellow San Franciscans will increasingly have nothing left to lose. We can’t throw people away or attempt to “contain” them in jail or certain neighborhoods or certain sectors. We can’t ignore people so disenfranchised that they become more and more desperate, eventually resorting to crime. Isn’t this evident, especially now, in this country? Unless we face ourselves and our systems, things will continue to disintegrate. And the police will absolutely not keep us safe. No matter how big the force, no matter how well-armed.

    1. Habitual criminals are not all members of a contained, underclass minority. Some people choose to game the system especially when the system decides their criminal activities will be ignored. Liberal white guilt is at the heart of many San Francisco problems.

  41. So I guess everyone who voted for the recall was a low-information voter?
    I wish these journalists would take a long walk around the zombieland that is SF

  42. If you don’t like national media opining on events in SF fine – but don’t invoke Sacramento and other cities in your article.

    Use all the statistics and intellectualization you want. Use thinly veiled criticisms of voters that they are prey to SPAC money machines and fear mongering.

    At the end of the day Joe, SF has a property crime problem. Everyone knows it. Anyone who has tried to own a bike knows it. Anyone who has rented or owned a car knows it. Anyone who has been mugged certainly knows it.

    Provide all the stats you want. Do you think it is possible stats are down because people don’t report because they know it is a pointless waste of time?

    Yesterday during daylight hours I walked for 15 minutes and saw a person with a needle in their arm, several piles of excrement, was panhandled a half dozen times, was solicited to buy drugs, and came upon a near altercation, was yelled at by a mentally ill individual, was encircled by an obviously intoxicated individual dancing provocatively with a portable speaker so loud I could not here myself if I yelled, and witness a near altercation, a freshly broken car window, and several people passed out – not sleeping – passed out, on the street.

    Am I sympathetic to people with problems? Yes. Do I feel safe here or enjoy witnessing these events everyday? No. Can I just move? No, I can’t. Even if I could why should I? I was here long before most of these people.

    Why can’t you have some sympathy and understanding for my perspective? I work hard, I am still poor. I know poverty. I know abandonment by parents. I know injustice. Why can I not ask people to be held accountable for illegal activity that diminishes my quality of life and threatens public safety?

    Everything is a racist conspiracy here. But is it? Or do people who WORK have reasonable expectations for public behavior that are intellectualized and philosophized away and invalidated?

    No one is denying injustice. No one is thinking removing him will solve every problem. But come on. Stop insulting citizens for exercising their democratic rights to hold politicians accountable.

    This man lost, fairly and for good reasons. Why you didn’t mention the tricks they did on the paper ballot to try to maje it easy to have an invalid 3rd page or to put this question very last?

    1. Fred I hope journalist and politician in the city reads and reflects on what you just wrote.

    2. Fred: You hit the nail on the head. Excellent, thoughtful response to the article. One thing that wasn’t mentioned in the article, but which was a factor for me is the fact that Boudin, coming very much from a defense attorney POV, was not temperamentally fit for the job. We have defense attorneys to defend the accused and we have prosecutors to prosecute them. We absolutely need both, but the two are very different jobs, and I frankly think Boudin never took his role as DA seriously nor did he have his heart in the job.

    3. If you really want to see a solution to these issues you will not find it in more criminalization, or allowing inequality and poverty to continue to force people onto the streets. We’ve been doing that for a few decades now and the problem is getting worse.

      Just sayin.

    4. Fred hit the nail on the head. I studied biochemistry at Harvard; law at Columbia. No one manipulated me or tricked me into voting for the recall. I’m a gay SF educated liberal. I’m also the father of a four year old. Our city is filthy and unsafe. Sam – no amount of mansplaining or intellectual snobbery is going to solve our problems. Please, be humble, listen, learn – you are not in a position to lecture.

      1. Where there’s white wealth, there’s racism The gay men/power structure in SF are/is no different. Your perspective registers zero on the surprise meter.

  43. Very, very, well written. However, you continue the far liberal blindness. I would love for you to read and/or listen to opposing views. And actually study them with complete open mindedness. My liberal bestest friends, do not ‘study’ opposing views, and tell me ‘I’ am closed minded. I however expose myself to all opinions and ‘news’. Unfortunately, my friends are and live inside liberal cocoons and campuses. Not a best. – Enjoyed.

    1. They are actually “illiberals”…they are very judgmental and surprisingly closed minded.

    2. We’ve been subject to the escalating war on drugs and crime for 40 yr, with little to show in the way of less substance use and less crime.

      The status quo was not working, it set the stage for the conditions that Boudin inherited. That’s why there are efforts at reform.

  44. While my interest in this topic is purely voyeuristic (I live on the east, not west coast), blaming “out-of-state” money but then casting it as an entirely local issue seems an unusual argument to make.
    I’ve read a few of Mission Local’s articles on this topic (which is why when I woke up and saw the results, you were my first stop), and you/this publication have been very much against the recall. I’m not conservative, and I live in DC, but I would be furious at the state of affairs SF residents endure if I were there.
    Would like to see additional thought pieces from Mission in the future, that grapple with the things voters are angry over. Saying “oh, SF just doesn’t have enough black people to support criminal justice reform” seems… yes, I’ll say it – racist. Black voters are the most conservative part of the Democratic coalition. They are why the USA was denied the chance to elect Bernie Sanders. They are also why there was sentencing disparities between crack and cocaine in the 90s. I don’t mean this as an insult, but seeing you write that made me think “WASP-y Karen alert” (before I saw a man wrote this). More nuance, and please – *please* – some good faith consideration of the opposing side.
    Thanks for your hard work and your good writing.

    1. Looking at the election results, it is not clear that African American voters in SF supported Boudin’s ‘progressive DA’ policies overall. Bayview-Hunters Point, Western Addition, and the Tenderloin all have a significant percentage of African American voters, and if anything, they look slightly more pro-recall than anti-recall. Low turnout, though, and so it is hard to draw firm conclusions here.

    2. I think you’ve nailed it.

      And reform that allows for drug dealers to run without control dealing fentanyl and killing both the addicted and the neighborhoods is not progressive in any manner.

      Same with reform that diverts violent felonies into reform programs that are not enforced.

      Reform should be beneficial both for the offender and society. If reform can objectively be measured to place outsized burdens on society (by allowing repeat offenders out and able to offend again), it’s time to rethink it.

      On top of that, I believe Mission Local itself has noted how hard it is to get good data out of Boudin’s office. Certainly it’s been noted by journalists at many San Francisco media sites.

      How is a non-transparent DA progressive? It’s not.

  45. So, how long is it going to take for local media, including Joe, to come to grips with the realization that your readers/viewers don’t believe what you believe?

    Every local publication but the Marina Times endorsed Boudin. But we don’t want what you want.

    1. Exactly. San Francisco, one of the most highly educated liberal populations in the country ousted the DA and the narrative is it happened because we are all ignorant sheep swayed by the Republican machine. Maybe the voters felt that he wasn’t the right person for the job. He squeaked into office through ranked choice voting and did not have broad support at any point.

    2. Carl, ML and Joe’s job is not to agree with your viewpoint. Their job is to present the facts and context. But facts don’t seem to matter to you, do they, Carl?

      1. The turnout rate after all pending ballots are counted will be around the same as or higher than the turnout which elected Boudin. Next “this isn’t a legitimate vote” excuse?

    3. Come to grips? Sounds like you want a narrative that makes you feel good rather than looking at reality

    4. Love this piece, Joe. I chose not to recall because I don’t believe in recalls except under extreme circumstances. (e.g. the school board, and I don’t even have kids). Boudin did nothing wrong except make good on his campaign promises but I also don’t believe he would have been re-elected. I’m certainly on the side of criminal justice reform, but was Boudin the right choice to deliver on it? He was a lighting rod from day one. But not just a lighting rod, but a lighting rod combined with a straw man. I am dumbstruck here by what people think falls under a DA’s responsibility. Either folks are being disingenuous or they really don’t know, which just furthers my belief that recalls need more oversight or a higher threshold to move forward.

      1. Garett, thanks for recommending recalls have more oversight. They do. You’ve negated yourself in 2nd sentence. BOE was an extreme waste of resources, and did exactly zero to help SFUSD students. Historical only in the disgusting fact that it unseated the first ever elected Pacific Islander in SF (!) for absolutely no reason. Currently, under the mayoral appointments mind you, staff are STILL (6/9) suffering from a broken payroll system and Jenny Lam has just dissolved all committees to, somehow, “focus” on student achievement. This includes the committee on Labor and Personnel (payroll) as well as committee on Curriculum and Programs (student achievement) ?

    5. > So, how long is it going to take for local media, including Joe, to come to grips with the realization that your readers/viewers don’t believe what you believe?

      > Every local publication but the Marina Times endorsed Boudin. But we don’t want what you want.

      It’s certainly not media’s job to be anyone’s echo chamber whether it’s that of the left-wing, right-wing or even Joe Random Public.

      One would expect they would be honest and critical as they see fit, and with reasons they can lay out. (One would expect, though usually that expectation is foolhardy)