George Gascón headed for SF district attorney win

Incumbent District Attorney George Gascón appeared to be on his way to the first election victory of his career as unofficial results late Tuesday gave him a significant lead.

Gascón led the field, according to preliminary results from the Elections Department. Trailing him were UC Berkeley law professor David Onek and Alameda County prosecutor Sharmin Bock.

Gascón did not receive the minimum 50 percent of votes to win outright, meaning that tallying the winner will proceed under ranked-choice voting guidelines. Final results are expected in the coming days.

Gascón, 57, the former police chief and perceived front-runner, had been targeted by opponents for having no experience as a prosecutor and for conflicts of interest in being able to prosecute police officers accused of crimes.

But he insisted that as the head of the office, his experience as a law enforcement reformer and a manager of large organizations was what really counted.

Appointed district attorney by Mayor Gavin Newsom in January to replace now-Attorney General Kamala Harris, Gascón has emphasized the need to develop alternatives to incarceration. He revitalized the office’s neighborhood courts program to shift low-level crimes from the overburdened court system and is working on a risk-assessment model of offenders to determine prosecution priorities.

Gascón and other law enforcement officials will be increasingly dealing with these issues as more convicts are being sent to San Francisco jails and handled by local probation officers under state realignment.

Opponents also had made an issue out of Gascón’s stance on the death penalty, which appeared to evolve somewhat over the course of the campaign. After initially saying he would consider the death penalty in especially heinous cases, Gascón tamped down that position, emphasizing that he opposed it and did not think a San Francisco jury would convict on capital punishment. However, he said he would decide on a case-by-case basis.

The San Francisco Police Officers Association endorsed Gascón in the race, but that was partly out of an apparent misconstruing of his position that he would leave the door open to pursuing the death penalty in cases involving the killing of a police officer.

Gascón later clarified that he never indicated that to the union.

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