Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascon speaks at a press conference in Los Angeles on Dec. 8, 2021. (Robyn Beck/AFP via Getty Images)
Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón attended his first debate Wednesday night, Nov. 15, since announcing his bid for reelection on Oct. 14.
The debate was hosted by the Santa Monica Democratic Club, who endorsed
Mr. Gascón in 2020, and featured the race’s Democratic Party candidates, including Los Angeles Superior Court judges Craig Mitchell and Debra Archuleta, deputy district attorneys Maria Ramirez, John McKinney, Jonathan Hatami, and Eric Siddall, and former Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeff Chemerinsky.
A previous debate was hosted by the Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs and other law enforcement organizations on Oct. 18—however, Mr. Gascón did not attend.
At the Nov. 15 debate, Mr. Hatami challenged Mr. Gascón’s record in office by citing a long list of crime statistics from memory:
- Hate crimes up over 100 percent from 2019 to 2023
- Jewish hate crimes up 27.6 percent this year
- Restaurant burglaries up 103 percent from 2019 to 2023
- Retail theft up 123 percent this year
- Commercial burglaries up 29 percent this year
- Commercial robberies up 19 percent this year
Violent crime was also up in Los Angeles County in 2021 and 2022, but dropped slightly this year.
Mr. Gascón denied that his progressive policies have lead to an increase in crime since he took office, calling criticism of him “fake news” and pointing out that crime is down in Los Angeles County in 2023. However, his opponents suggested he bears some responsibility.
“People have had enough of these smash and grab burglaries. Violent crime is up in three years. Police are demoralized, that’s why violent crime is down a little this year,” said Mr. Hatami, who also brought up issues such as homelessness and the safety of law enforcement officers.
Ms. Archuleta offered another argument regarding the slight downtick in crime. “He wants to sit up here and argue that crime statistics are down,” she said. “That might be because he has over 13,000 cases sitting on his desk that have not yet been filed.”
“It almost seems we’re at a Republican debate,” countered Mr. Gascón. Interestingly, four of the candidates were previously registered as Republicans—including the progressive district attorney himself, George Gascón.
Nathan Hochman, who is running as an Independent, was not invited to last night’s debate.
“I’m very disappointed that the Santa Monica Democratic Club won’t allow me to share my vision and my views at tonight’s forum based solely on the fact that I’m a registered Independent,” he said on social media.
Mr. Hochman made himself available to voters and the media at the Santa Monica Library shortly before the debate began. He also watched the debate from the library and went live on Twitter with his reactions, including to Mr. Gascón’s “fake news” comment.
“As far as fake news goes, the only fake news are his statistics that crime has not gone up while he’s been in office. Ask yourself this question. Do you feel more safe today than you have three years ago?” he wrote.
The audience’s reaction to the candidates suggested the majority supported Mr. Hatami and Mr. Siddall, who appeared to be the front-runners.
Last week, Mr. Gascón failed
to secure the San Pedro Democratic Club endorsement with only 36 percent of the vote.
Los Angeles voters will have their say in the March 2024 primary regarding which district attorney candidates will appear on the November ballot.