At a press conference on Friday morning, an emotional Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey conceded her race for a third term to George Gascón, widely considered one of the most progressive prosecutors in America.
The room erupted into applause as Lacey approached the lectern. Supporters, deputy DAs, and other staffers were in attendance to show their respect for the two-term incumbent who has been the top law enforcement official in the region since 2012.
“The circumstances surrounding the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery gave breath to an in-progress discussion about racism, policing, and criminal justice reform,” Lacey said on Friday. “Our nation is going through a reckoning, and what happened in our election may one day be listed as a consequence of that.”
According to the latest information provided by the L.A. County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk, her opponent, Gascón, has captured almost 53.72% of the vote so far, while Lacey, the first woman and Black prosecutor to hold that seat, has garnered 46.28% support. There are reportedly more than 790,000 ballots left to count, but Lacey said her advisors concluded she cannot catch up.
In conceding the DA’s race to @GeorgeGascon, Jackie Lacey blamed her loss on rage that grew from the killing of George Floyd. “It may be said that one day the results of this election is the result of our season of discontent and a demand to see a tsunami of change” @LAist @KPCC pic.twitter.com/dUwBqPEdE5
— Frank Stoltze (@StoltzeFrankly) November 6, 2020
D.A. Lacey did not take questions from reporters.
Gascón, 66, who served as San Francisco’s district attorney from 2011 to 2019, says his strategy strives to find the proper balance between reducing violent crime and increasing public safety “without overincarcerating.” He has promised not to prosecute some offenses to the fullest extent allowed by law and said he wouldn’t seek the death penalty under any circumstances. The L.A. Times reported the race “has been a litmus test of Southern California’s appetite for criminal justice reform.”
Both candidates identified as Democrats, but Gascón was perceived to be the more reform-minded alternative. His campaign was backed by New York-based mega-donor George Soros and liberal philanthropists from the Bay Area, including Patty Quillin, the wife of Netflix CEO Reed Hastings.
— Daily Wire (@realDailyWire) September 29, 2020
Lacey, 63, had the support of law enforcement unions. She was generally viewed as part of the local Democratic establishment. However, several elected officials abandoned her, withdrawing their endorsements after the death of George Floyd sparked nationwide demands for systemic change.
Black Lives Matter leaders have long led the drive to replace Lacey, criticizing her record while bringing attention to her unwillingness to charge police officers who fatally shot civilians in the line of duty. The activist network bird-dogged Lacey for years, crashing her appearances and demonstrating outside of her home. Her husband, David, pulled a handgun on BLM members in March when they showed up outside the couple’s front door, uninvited, around 5:30 am.
BLM’s L.A. chapter declared Gascón the winner Wednesday morning even though there were still hundreds of thousands of uncounted votes.
“#JackieLaceyWILLGo because we protested every week for more than 3 years,” the official BLM-LA Twitter account posted, adding, “we walked neighborhoods, we convinced our friends, the families of those killed by police stood up, the Spirits of our Ancestors were poured into our work….because we organized…#VoteAndOrganize”
The activist group planned and promoted a victory party outside Lacey’s office later that afternoon.
TODAY at 3PM – 211 W. Temple
This may be your LAST CHANCE to join the #JackieLaceyWILLGo action! We’re sending the most problematic DA packing in the names of the 626 of our people killed by police…cops that she refuses to prosecute. So she’s OUT! #VoteAndOrganize pic.twitter.com/Cvf9Y2tQ07
— #BlackLivesMatter-LA (@BLMLA) November 4, 2020
An L.A. Times journalist who attended the event tweeted, “A lot of people out here celebrating this as the beginning of the fall of a lot of law enforcement leaders they want gone,” indicating L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva “sounds like he’s next on the agenda.”
Police declared an unlawful assembly in the vicinity around 7:30pm Wednesday night.
I am (admittedly extremely late too) the Jackie Lacey Will Go rally. A lot of people out here celebrating this as the beginning of the fall of a lot of law enforcement leaders they want gone (Sheriff Villanueva sounds like he’s next on agenda) pic.twitter.com/VYiZiyCsW6
— James Queally (@JamesQueallyLAT) November 5, 2020
BLM co-founder Patrisse Cullors was part of two political action committees supporting Gascon’s candidacy. The BLM-led ground efforts gained momentum over the summer, as international pop icon Madonna and other celebrities amplified the call to oust Lacey.
Every Weds for the last few years Black Lives Matter LA, has gathered in front of City Hall to demand the resignation of D.A. Jackie Lacey and to grieve with mothers mourning the loss of their children to police brutality. I urge you to join them next… https://t.co/uOD3FegEG4 pic.twitter.com/KXbBNh0sXb
— Madonna (@Madonna) June 11, 2020
“Jackie Lacey will no longer be in a position where she can continue to perpetuate harm on our communities,” said BLM member Rahje Branch.
According to the L.A. Times, some of Lacey’s supporters expressed frustration with her campaign team for not pursuing the March primary as, what the outlet described, “an all-or-nothing proposition.” She needed more than 50% support to avoid a November runoff but was only able to capture 48.7% of the vote in the three-way race.
Our organization, @RealJusticePAC, raised and spent $642,252.29 on advertising, billboards, texting, staff, and more to elect @GeorgeGascon. The most we ever raised and spent in 4 years on a DA’s race.
Thank you to thousands of small donors who helped make that possible.
— Shaun King (@shaunking) November 4, 2020
The New York Times had described the L.A. County contest as “one of the most consequential races in the country.” More than 16 months ago, the Times reported then-San Francisco D.A. Gascon had been meeting with national and local Black Lives Matter leaders and anti-incarceration advocates to discuss a possible run in Los Angeles. Progressive organizations had targeted both L.A. County and Gascón, believing his election there would change the criminal justice landscape throughout the United States. Gascón announced his candidacy last October. As the Times previously reported:
Groups that have successfully supported reform-minded prosecutors pushing to end mass incarceration in places like Philadelphia, Chicago and Texas have zeroed in on Los Angeles as the ultimate prize for their movement because of its size – it has the biggest jail system and the largest prosecutors office in the country.
L.A. is also the nation’s most populous county, with more than ten million residents.
Looking backwards, political incumbency was so powerful the justice system operated as a closed system, without any need to account for its own harms.
The movement that delivered the fall of Lacey closes that ignominious chapter in LA’s history.
— LA Justice Defender (@LADefenders2020) November 5, 2020
Born in pre-communist Cuba, Gascón came to America as a teenager after his family fled the Fidel Castro regime. They eventually settled in California, where he would spend more than 20 years with LAPD. Gascón went on to become Police Chief of Mesa, Arizona, the served in that same role in San Francisco. He was appointed D.A. by then-Mayor Gavin Newson in 2011.
Gascón co-authored a controversial criminal justice reform ballot initiative that was approved by voters in 2014. The referendum, called Proposition 47, reclassified several felonies to misdemeanors.