The successful recall of San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin on Tuesday has already led some pundits to declare the demise of the “progressive prosecutor.”
But a look around the country — and closer probe of San Francisco’s particular issues — tells a more complicated story.
What’s clear is that Boudin was soundly rejected by his constituents. What’s less certain, or simple to explain, is why. Boudin had powerful, moneyed opponents aligned against him, for sure, but progressive candidates have overcome those hurdles in a series of races this primary season. More problematic for Boudin, though, was his poor standing with voters in San Francisco, who recently recalled three school board members, and a general discontent, not unlike what we’ve seen in other typically liberal cities, with overlapping issues of crime, homelessness and the cost of living.
Boudin didn’t do himself too many favors in trying to assuage some very real concerns with his performance in office, but an early scan of the incoming results shows a divide between younger voters and older, wealthier ones.
Looking outside the city, and around the country, the prospects for fellow progressive-prosecutor types still look promising.
As recently as last fall, Alvin Bragg won the district attorney race in Manhattan — in the same cycle that saw New Yorkers elect Eric Adams as mayor. In Philadelphia, District Attorney Larry Krasner easily won reelection despite an ultimately overblown backlash to his policies. And in the Chicago area, Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx won a second term in 2020.
Boudin’s ouster is certainly a blow to the movement he, at least for the moment, has come to represent. But the implications for the future are more difficult to nail down — especially if the headline issues that fueled the discontent around him don’t end along with his time in office.