Leno blasts District Attorney appointment, will campaign against Loftus

Leno had not endorsed in the race, but expressed disgust at Mayor London Breed’s appointment so close to the election, which he described as a naked power play.

On Guard column header Joe

UPDATE 4:15 pm:

Former State Senator Mark Leno has come out of political retirement to back Chesa Boudin’s run for District Attorney.

Leno had not endorsed in the race, but expressed disgust at Mayor London Breed’s appointment so close to the election, which he described as a naked power play.

“As you know I really stepped back from politics,” Leno said. Last year, he unsuccessfully ran for mayor against Breed, ending his decades-long political career.

“Today has changed that,” Leno said.

He said he was “seriously offended by this assault on a fair election process.” “It’s tainted and it’s distasteful,” Leno said.

He also said that supporters of the appointment could not offer a reason “that is not laughable” why a deputy district attorney could not run the office for the intervening time before voters decide who should serve as San Francisco’s next District Attorney.

“This is raw political move — nothing more, nothing less,” Leno said of the appointment.

Leno noted that he had stayed out of the race since he had a relationship with three of the major candidates, including Loftus. But his visceral disgust of the appointment so close to the election is motivating him to join team Boudin as much as Boudin will have him.

“I will be a visible presence,” Leno said.

His first appearance with Boudin is scheduled for Sunday.

Read below for the original story.

George Gascon is out, Suzy Loftus is in.

After District Attorney George Gascon announced his early resignation Thursday night, keyed-in San Franciscans and politicos waited to see when Mayor London Breed would announce an appointment to fill his seat.

Well, the news is about as surprising as seeing a nudist in the Castro or shivering through a foggy day in the Sunset District.

Yes, Breed will appoint Loftus as interim district attorney, in a move the pair will announce in Portsmouth Square Friday afternoon.

Mayor London Breed speaks at a news conference to appoint Suzy Loftus as interim District Attorney at Far East Cafe in Chinatown on Friday. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

Mayor London Breed speaks at a news conference to appoint Suzy Loftus as interim District Attorney at Far East Cafe in Chinatown on Friday. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

Sources confirmed the move to this columnist, though it certainly didn’t take rocket science to figure it out.

Loftus, the former San Francisco Police Commission president, San Francisco native and longtime West Side community denizen, is Breed’s endorsed pick in the race to be The City’s top prosecutor.

And with the election just over the horizon — November, people, keep up — this announcement may give Loftus a lift over the finish line into first.

Supervisor Aaron Peskin, a backer of DA candidate Chesa Boudin, said he disagreed with Breed’s appointment.

“I think it’s an unfortunate attempt to influence the voters days before an open election, but I don’t think it’s going to work,” he said. “Chesa Boudin has momentum. This might slow him down, but it’s not enough to stop him.”

Others praised the decision.

Shawn Richard, director of Brothers Against Guns, said that “someone has to run” the office after Gascon leaves and “Suzy has been fighting for a long time man, in the community.”

“Suzy is the one that pushed for the SFPD to be audited by the (U.S. Department of Justice), and I agree with that. She made sure D-O-J held the SFPD and Police Commission accountable,” he said.

The Police Officers Association, the union representing San Francisco’s police officers, also supported Breed’s decision.

“George Gascon abandoning his sworn duty to climb the next rung of the political ladder is consistent with his character of putting his raw ambition before the public’s interest,” POA President Tony Montoya said, in a statement. “We respect Mayor Breed’s authority to appoint a district attorney, and we are thankful it is not the criminal and domestic-terrorist apologist who is running to replace the failed Gascon.”

Gascon announced earlier last year that he would not run for re-election in San Francisco. At the time, he cited his elderly mother’s failing health and the need to be closer to his family.

However, Thursday night, he said he would resign to explore his candidacy for district attorney in Los Angeles.

In an email to his staff, Gascon said his resignation will be effective Oct. 18, which would also mark the first day Breed could legally appoint Loftus.

Loftus’ opposition includes deputy public defender Chesa Boudin, deputy state attorney general Leif Dautch and prosecutor Nancy Tung. Among those candidates, Loftus is considered more aligned with San Francisco’s political moderates, and Boudin has been endorsed by many of The City’s progressive politicians.

Though some paint these candidates with broad brushes, Loftus has demonstrated her willingness to cross ideological lines. She notably spurned tasers while sitting on the police commission after progressive advocates voiced concern that the less-than-lethal weapons may actually lead to deadly encounters with San Francisco police.

While I give Loftus credit for that independence, she’s flouting that very quality by accepting the job. I believe strongly in the democratic process. Too often, San Francisco elections are decided by incumbency alone. This was the first open District Attorney’s race in a century — no longer, now.

It’s also a telling move. Loftus must have needed the boost.

Financially, she and her closest perceived competition, Boudin, are neck-and-neck at roughly $500,000. Dautch is trailing them both at $290,000, and Tung is hanging in the back of the pack with $118,000, according to filings at the San Francisco Ethics Commission.

And, I’m told, before this move was announced, Boudin was perceived as a credible threat to Loftus’ campaign.

Well, with the significant news this appointment will generate, it’s almost certain to catapult Loftus’ name recognition among voters into the stratosphere — and San Francisco voters also rarely thumb their nose at incumbents.

Department of Election literature will likely not reflect Loftus is an incumbent.

Still, some are saying this hands Loftus the election, depriving voters of a fair battle of ideas.

“This would give the opponent a major advantage with just one month to go,” tweeted Shaun King, a prominent, though controversial criminal justice advocate who has backed Boudin’s campaign.

“We’ve seen this before,” he wrote, “this would be yet another sham attempt by the establishment to tip the scales in San Francisco’s first open DA race in over 100 years.”

This is a breaking story. Check back for updates.

On Guard prints the news and raises hell each week. Email Fitz at joe@sfexaminer.com, follow him on Twitter and Instagram @FitztheReporter, and Facebook at facebook.com/FitztheReporter.

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