Suzy Loftus has been the subject of protests and criticism from opponents this week following her appointment as district attorney ahead of November’s election. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

Loftus faces continued backlash after Breed names her interim DA

Perceived unfair disadvantage a target of criticism at Monday night debate

At the first district attorney debate since Mayor London Breed tapped candidate Suzy Loftus to serve as the interim top prosecutor of San Francisco, opponents and protesters on Monday attacked Loftus over the appointment.

The mayor stirred outrage when she announced Friday that Loftus would temporarily replace District Attorney George Gascon after he resigns on Oct. 18 to explore a run for office in Los Angeles.

The protests continued at the debate at Mission High School on Monday night, where candidate Chesa Boudin criticized the move as something Breed “never would have done it if they thought they could win fair and square.”

“All I can say is I hope the cases that Ms. Loftus prosecutes are fairer than the election she is running in this race,” said Boudin, a deputy public defender and the progressive frontrunner in the contest.

Opponents of Loftus argue that Breed unfairly changed the dynamics of the race when she decided to appoint Loftus in the middle of what was expected to be the first district attorney race without an incumbent in more than a century.

The move already cost Loftus the endorsement of former Supervisor John Avalos last week. Then on Tuesday, Supervisor Matt Haney suggested he too was considering withdrawing his support for Loftus.

“I’m disappointed and disturbed by what the mayor chose to do here,” said Haney. “There’s no reason to appoint someone 18 days before the election, other than to attempt to influence the outcome in what would have been the first open DA’s race in 100 years.”

“I like Suzy,” Haney added. “We’ve been friends and have worked together for a long time, but I don’t like what the mayor did here at all. I’ll be talking to Suzy and to District 6 residents, and then I’ll make a decision.”

At the debate, Loftus faced off with a group of shouting protesters and suggested she had no concerns about accepting the appointment.

“When an unexpected thing happens and George Gascon vacated his post unexpectedly and the mayor asks me to serve The City where I rode Muni to my public school and I am raising my babies, I’m going to say yes,” Loftus said.

Loftus had already been dogged by protesters for fundraising with former Police Chief Greg Suhr, who resigned amid fallout over a series of controversial police shootings. Loftus was president of the Police Commission at the time. She currently works as an attorney for the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department.

For months, Gascon has been rumored to be considering a run against the incumbent district attorney of Los Angeles. But he took the public by surprise Thursday when he announced he would not finish his term.

The announcement, followed by Breed naming Loftus as his temporary successor a day later, raised suspicions about whether the mayor cut a deal with Gascon to give her candidate a bump in the polls.

But a source close to the district attorney said Gascon did not think Breed would move on the opportunity to make an appointment at the time. The election is just 18 days after the date he plans to step down.

When Breed made the announcement Friday, the mayor explained that the office was just too crucial to leave empty.

“There is no way that I am going to leave this office vacant for the next three months,” Breed told reporters.

But at the debate, candidate Leif Dautch said Breed should have let Gascon’s chief of staff run the office until election day, and “then appoint whoever wins the free and fair and open election.”

“That is the right way to do it here,” said Dautch, a deputy attorney general for the state.

Candidate Nancy Tung said at the debate she has based her campaign on her “experience and independance.” The former San Francisco prosecutor and current Alameda County assistant district attorney criticized Breed for politicizing the office.

“It is critically important that we have an independant district attorney, somebody who does what is right, what is just, not what is political,” Tung said.

mbarba@sfexaminer.com

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