San Francisco Voters Oust District Lawyer Chesa Boudin in Unprecedented Recall

“This was never about one vote count, it was never about one election night party, it was never about specifically which person gets to be in the office of the district attorney,” he added. “This is a movement, not a moment, in history.”

Brooke Jenkins, a former assistant district attorney in Boudin’s office, and a lead organizer in the campaign to remove him, voiced gratitude at an election night party at the Del Mar lounge in the Marina District.

“I feel relieved. I feel hopeful for San Francisco,” she told KQED. “We knew all along this was not a Republican billionaire effort, that this was not a pushback against reform, that we were trying to protect reform. That we knew a DA can balance implementing reform with prioritizing public safety.”

The recall was largely driven by San Francisco’s more conservative neighborhoods — including the Sunset District, Marina District, Park Merced, and St. Francis Wood — where overall turnout was higher than in progressive-leaning districts that generally stood by Boudin.

While Boudin’s loss is decisive, he won’t be required to leave office until 10 days after the election is declared official by the Board of Supervisors, which may take place at its June 25 meeting. Mayor London Breed is expected to announce Boudin’s replacement soon thereafter.

A number of names have been floated to replace Boudin, including Jenkins, prosecutor Nancy Tung (who said she would run in a future election), and San Francisco Supervisor Catherine Stefani (one of the few elected officials to endorse the recall).

Breed on Wednesday insisted the city is not backing away from progressive criminal justice reforms, and pledged to meet with community groups and police officials before appointing the next DA.

“This does not mean that criminal justice reform in San Francisco is going anywhere. It does not mean that there will be, all of a sudden, a significant setback,” she said. “We want justice. But we also want to make sure that people have a second chance.”

A group of recall supporters — including Brooke Jenkins, center — take a selfie during an election night party at Del Mar in San Francisco on June 7, 2022. (Beth LaBerge/KQED)

And, Boudin may also choose to run in a future district attorney’s race. But newly appointed Supervisor Matt Dorsey, a former San Francisco police spokesperson who became one of the few elected officials to endorse Boudin’s recall, said he doesn’t think another election would bode well for Boudin, based on Tuesday’s vote.

“It could happen, yeah. But I think the numbers say something,” Dorsey said.

In the meantime, Dorsey noted, the debate over Boudin’s record has fractured the community, pitting neighbor against neighbor.

“The most important thing is, we’ve got to put the hurt feelings behind us and move the city forward,” he said.

The historic recall garnered national attention, bitterly dividing Democrats in the city on issues of crime, policing and public safety reform. The effort was fueled by a tsunami of contributions — more than $7 million, according to filings at the San Francisco Ethics Commission — from well-heeled donors, including real estate interests and Republican billionaire William Oberndorf, who individually gave north of $650,000.

A shadowy photo showing a crowd of supporters surrounding Chesa Boudin, who is standing on a beer keg to address the crowd outside at a restaurant.San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin addresses a crowd at The Ramp restaurant after the effort to recall him succeeded. (Beth LaBerge/KQED)

In contrast, recall opponents raised less than half as much — about $3 million — with the largest donations from the American Civil Liberties Union, a criminal justice reform PAC and tech billionaire Chris Larsen.

For months, the Yes on H campaign has saturated San Francisco media with online, television and radio ads, while also investing heavily in a field operation and a texting campaign.

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