District attorney dodges second effort to recall him

Wave Staff and Wire Reports

LOS ANGELES — For the second time, an effort to recall Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón has failed.

The county Registrar of Voters’ office announced Aug. 15 that organizers submitted only 520,050 valid petition signatures, well short of the required 566,857.

Organizers of the recall submitted a total of 715,833 petition signatures to the county Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk’s office in an effort to force Gascón into a recall election. County officials initially conducted a random sampling of the signatures to verify their validity. Based on that initial sampling, the county undertook an effort to verify all 715,833 signatures individually.

The county announced that 195,783 of the signatures were invalid. In many cases, the person signing the petition was not a registered voter, and there were also more than 45,000 duplicate signatures, according to the county.

According to a statement issued by the Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk’s Office, the signature-verification process “was conducted in compliance with the statutory and regulatory requirements of the California Government Code, Elections Code and Code of Regulations.

Last week, organizers of the recall effort alleged the county was not adhering to current laws for signature verification, saying rules presume that a signature is valid unless there is evidence beyond a reasonable doubt that the signature on the petition differs in “multiple, significant and obvious” respects from the one on file. But organizers alleged that the county was not adhering to that standard.

“The outdated training materials and procedures provided by the registrar, along with their denial of observation rights, raise grave concerns about the verification process,” a statement issued by the campaign last week said. “It appears the standards being applied to verify recall signatures are different than those mandated under current law and used in other recent elections. We remain confident that once a fair, transparent, and accurate verification process is implemented, it will ultimately determine enough signatures were submitted to qualify the recall.”

According to the county’s breakdown of invalid signatures, however, only about 9,940 were ruled to be different than the one on file, with the vast majority rejected for other reasons.

Gascón has been under fire since taking office in December 2020, when he issued a series of directives critics blasted as being soft on crime. The directives include a rule against seeking the death penalty, a ban on transferring juvenile defendants to adult court and prohibitions on filing sentencing-enhancements in most cases.

Gascón has repeatedly defended his policies, saying his stances were well-known during his campaign and his election signified public support of his agenda.

On Aug. 15, he wrote on his Twitter page: “Grateful to move forward from this attempted political power grab. Rest assured LA County, the work hasn’t stopped. My primary focus has been & will always be keeping us safe & creating a more equitable justice system for all. I remain strongly committed to that work & to you.”

Veteran Deputy District Attorney John McKinney, who had planned to run for Gascón’s job if the recall had been successful, said he and “many of my colleagues” were disappointed by the news.

“I am gravely concerned about the health and safety of our community and the viability of our entire court system with Gascón at the helm of the District Attorney’s Office for the next two years,” McKinney said in a statement. “More than ever, the public needs to pay attention to what the Gascón administration is doing and speak out to other elected officials about their concerns.”

Deputy District Attorney Jonathan Hatami, who vocally backed the recall effort, said he was saddened and disappointed.

“The residents of L.A. County cannot afford another two years of George Gascon’s dangerous policies,” Hatami said in a statement. “The lives of so many innocent residents are at risk. So, we all must come together to help and stand up for one another until George is gone.

“George — a message for you: I’m not going anywhere,” he said. “I will always stand with abused & neglected children, victims & their families & all the residents of L.A. County. Your days are still numbered. Just like today, I’ll be back working and fighting for the people tomorrow.”

But Earl Ofari Hutchinson, president of the Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable, was pleased that the recall effort failed.

“The campaign to oust Gascón was never anything more than a thinly veiled right-wing effort to sabotage Gascón’s much needed criminal justice reforms,” Hutchinson said. “The L.A. County Registrar’s finding that the recall campaign did not collect the required ‘legal’ signatures was welcome. Hopefully, this will put a end to the sorry, and disingenuous effort to sabotage Gascón’s efforts at long and much-needed reform in the D.A.’s office.”

This marked the second failure of an effort to recall Gascón. A separate attempt last year was halted, with organizers blaming poor timing and the impact of COVID-19 health lockdowns.

The latest recall effort appeared to gain steam throughout the signature-gathering effort, bolstered by vocal criticism of Gascón by recall organizers and the leaders of dozens of local cities that took “no confidence” votes in the district attorney.

But just as the recall-petition signatures were being submitted to the county last month, there were signs of discord that threatened the effort.

A petition signature-gathering company hired by the recall campaign sued the organizers, saying they were owed nearly $470,000 for unpaid work. The lawsuit by Let the Voters Decide also accused recall organizers of a series of missteps in the process, alleging they “made multiple strategic decisions related to the collection of signatures that were directly against [Let the Voters Decide] recommendations as to how to proceed.”

“For example, against LTVD’s recommendations, defendants lowered the price they were willing to pay signature collectors during a time where the market demanded that, to prevent those individuals from leaving, defendants maintain or increase the prices paid,” the suit alleges.

Tim Lineberger, a spokesman for the recall campaign, called the lawsuit “frivolous.”

Responding to news of the recall effort’s failure, Let the Voters Decide spokesman David Leibowitz said in a statement, “This could not have been handled more like amateur hour. These consultants made poor decisions and ignored solid advice at every turn. You name it, they did it, from collecting signatures on the cheap to failing to pay their bills to expensive direct mail that failed to having zero clue how to verify signatures for submission. They have no one to blame but themselves for this disaster.”


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