A candidate for district attorney was surprised to learn Monday that the police union had abruptly pulled its support for his campaign.
Deputy Attorney General Leif Dautch believed the San Francisco Police Officers Association had chosen him in June as its candidate in the competitive race to succeed outgoing District Attorney George Gascon this November.
But the rank-and-file officers union withdrew its endorsement of Dautch late last month, accusing him of making contradictory statements during his campaign in a letter obtained by the San Francisco Examiner on Monday.
SFPOA President Tony Montoya told Dautch in the letter, “You have provided wildly different responses to similar questions posed to you by other organizations that are inconsistent and, in some instances, completely contrary to what you told the SFPOA during our endorsement interview.”
“These inconsistencies cannot be explained away as simply misspeaking on various issues important to the ethical managing of the Office of the District Attorney,” Montoya said in the June 24 letter, rescinding the endorsement.
Montoya declined to elaborate on the alleged inconsistencies. He said the union mailed the letter to Dautch last week, but the candidate said he never received it.
“This is the first I am hearing of any of this,” Dautch said Monday. “I’ve been completely consistent in terms of my answers on police accountability. My entire platform is up on my website.”
The endorsement was one of three that Dautch planned to announce Tuesday. Having secured the endorsements of the deputy sheriff and firefighters unions, he hoped to have the support of the three key public safety groups.
Together the three endorsements would have provided Dautch with additional resources including money and volunteers, as well as “credibility” as a candidate without a long track record in politics, according to political consultant Jim Ross.
“These are significant organizations who have run significant campaigns for their candidates over the last few decades,” said Ross, who spoke with Examiner before the newspaper learned the police union had withdrawn its support.
Though the SFPOA’s relationship with City Hall and the public has been tarnished in recent years by its positions on police reform and officer-involved shootings, its endorsement could have helped Dautch secure the support of voters who are concerned about crime.
“The POA has shown its willingness to spend money and get behind candidates and push real hard,” Ross said. “They’ll go negative if they think it’s necessary to win.”
Dautch said he wanted the SFPOA endorsement despite having concerns about “some of the things that the POA has said and done in the past.”
“We can hold bad apples accountable and still work collaboratively with the 2,000 rank-and-file police officers who are doing tough work out on the streets,” Dautch said.
Though Dautch does not have the police union’s support, Ross said the San Francisco Firefighters Local 798 is known for having “one of the better on-the-ground operations in San Francisco.”
Ross also said the “massive” independent expenditure campaign that the firefighters union created to elect Mayor London Breed last year “was one of the major factors of why she won the election.”
The firefighters union has dual-endorsed Dautch and candidate Suzy Loftus, an attorney for the Sheriff’s Department and former Police Commission president.
Dautch is running against Loftus, Deputy Public Defender Chesa Boudin and Alameda County Assistant District Attorney Nancy Tung.
Tung has previously received money from the SFPOA, but does not have the police union endorsement.
Montoya said the union now plans to be neutral and not endorse a candidate in the race.
Ross called the race a “big deal” as the candidate who voters elect in November could hold the position for any number of terms.
“There’s no term limits,” Ross said. “It’s very possible that someone could become DA in San Francisco and become DA for the rest of their lives.”
In a statement, the fire union said it endorsed Dautch because he “recognizes the mental health crisis unfolding on our streets and, as our next District Attorney, he will bring all agencies to the table to find a working solution.”
San Francisco Deputy Sheriffs’ Association President Ken Lomba said in a statement that it endorsed Dautch because, “Our Deputy Sheriff members are committed to the safety and well-being of all San Franciscans and to ensuring that one-time mistakes do not turn into a lifetime of crime.”
“We know that Leif will honor that commitment as our next district attorney,” Lomba said.