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District Attorney George Gascon declines to run for re-election

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District Attorney George Gascon has said he is not running for reelection. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

District Attorney George Gascon, who has served as the top prosecutor in San Francisco since 2011, said Tuesday that he no longer plans to seek re-election next year, citing the failing health of his mother.

Gascon was expected to run against former Police Commission President Suzy Loftus and others in November 2019 before announcing in a statement that running a re-election campaign “would not be compatible” with taking care of his 90-year-old mother.

“At this time, I simply cannot be the son I want to be and seek a third term,” Gascon said. “My career means a great deal to me. But success in the world with a family in chaos is not a choice I am willing to make.”

Gascon is a progressive district attorney who has strived to root out police bias, reform the bail system and clear old marijuana convictions. His announcement could open the door for a candidate to run to the left of Loftus, who has the endorsements of moderate politicians including Mayor London Breed.

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Loftus did not respond to a request for comment.

“Obviously Suzy Loftus is a very strong candidate, but Breed has already fully endorsed her,” said political strategist Jon Gollinger. “Next November, do we want a DA in lock step with the mayor, or do we want checks and balances?”

There are already several rumored candidates who could jump into the race in the wake of the announcement, including Supervisor Jane Kim and David Campos, head of the local Democratic Party.

“Right now, I’m just sending my best wishes to George, his mother and his whole family,” said Kim, who has been a rumored candidate since she lost the mayor’s race to Breed in June.

Campos, a former supervisor, said he is considering running against Loftus.

“I just learned, so I haven’t given it any thought,” Campos said in a text message. “Have to think seriously about it.”

Joe Alioto Veronese, a former Police Commission member, and Deputy Attorney General Leif Dautch are currently contenders in the race.

Gascon plans to remain district attorney until the voters elect his successor. He served as police chief before then-mayor Gavin Newsom appointed him as district attorney to replace Kamala Harris.

Prior to the announcement, he had Newsom’s endorsement and billionaire George Soros had pledged to fundraise for his campaign.

“It is difficult to step away, especially when we are experiencing so much success and progress,” Gascon said. “I am flattered by the robust and diverse support for my campaign and it will be hard to walk away from that. But, at this time in my life, it is the only choice I am certain I can live with.”

During his tenure, Gascon oversaw the creation of the Crime Strategies Unit to stop serial criminals using crime analysis and the Independent Investigations Bureau to more quickly investigate police shootings.

Gascon came under fire for championing Proposition 47 in 2014. The ballot measure, designed to alleviate prison overcrowding in California, reduced certain crimes to misdemeanors and has been wrongly blamed for rising property crime.

Gascon assembled a blue ribbon panel to report on institutional bias in the San Francisco Police Department in 2015 after a racist text scandal and a series of police shootings including the death of Mario Woods.

Anand Subramanian, who led the blue ribbon panel, said Gascon “demonstrated a true commitment to police accountability in San Francisco.”

But Subramanian did note that Gascon has faced criticism for not charging a single officer involved in a shooting, though the district attorney has charged cops with other crimes and did support an unsuccessful bill earlier this year that would have raised the standards for when police could shoot someone.

“I think his journey from being a police chief to becoming a reformist district attorney demonstrated his passion for justice and willingness to change his mind, which I think is too rare among law enforcement generally,” Subramanian said.

mbarba@sfexaminer.com

Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez contributed to this story

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