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Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascon poised to face Nathan Hochman

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(The Center Square) – Former Assistant U.S. Attorney General Nathan Hochman appears poised for a narrow victory over 11 challengers vying to face Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascon in the November 5 general election.

As district attorney, Gascon oversees prosecution for all of Los Angeles County, the largest DA district in the nation. With 67% of the vote in, Gascon leads with 22.1% of counted votes, with Hochman at 17.7% and Deputy District Attorney Jonathan Hatami at 13.3%.

Pre-election polling from the University of California had Gascon at 15% of primary voters’ support, with Hatami earning 8%, Hochman 4%, and other candidates trailing further behind. With just a 24% job approval rating, Gascon is blamed by many residents for perceptions of decreasing public safety. Hochman ran against California Attorney General Rob Bonta as a Republican, and is running in Los Angeles’ district attorney race as an independent.

Los Angeles police data from 2023 says that, while homicides have declined significantly, serious crimes and reported property crimes continue to rise. Part 1 crimes, which include homicide, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny-theft and motor vehicle theft, rose 1.9% over the year before. Overall property crimes continued to soar, rising 3.5% over the prior year amid a perception that crime is on the rise but that many crimes are still being underreported by victims.

In 2021, when just a single Target store in San Francisco — where Gascon served as District Attorney for eight years until late 2019 — started reporting more of its shoplifting, the city’s shoplifting totals doubled, rising from approximately 250 per month to 400 as the store reported 154 shoplifting reports in one month.

While serving as San Francisco District Attorney, Gascon authored Proposition 47, which made thefts under $950 classified as misdemeanors, so with a limited amount of prosecutors and resources, such cases, as misdemeanors, are much less likely to even be attempted to be prosecuted. Prop 47, called the “Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act,” was passed by California voters in 2014 and also largely decriminalized drug use.

Compounding issues further is Los Angeles County’s adoption of a court-ordered zero-bail policy due to “dismal” pre-trial conditions in October 2023. Though assault, stalking, domestic battery and violation of a protective order will still require cash bail, human trafficking, battery on a peace officer and sex with a minor will merely trigger judicial review. Most arrested suspects for most offenses will thus either be cited and released at the point of arrest, or booked and released at the law enforcement office — all with orders to appear in court for arraignment on a set date.

As LA district attorney, Gascon issued a “do not prosecute” memo for a wide range of crimes, including disturbing the peace, criminal threats, drinking in public, under the influence of controlled substances, public intoxication, loitering to commit prostitution, and resisting arrest.

Gascon has also chosen not to pursue sentencing enhancements for gang and gun related crimes, as well as those allowed under so-called “three strikes” laws that prosecutors can use to increase prison sentences of those convicted of serious or violent felonies in the past.

Hochman has vocally opposed Gascon’s policies and promises to end the ban on sentencing enhancements and prosecute more criminals for their crimes.