After a bitter race to head the country’s largest prosecutor, reform candidate and former San Francisco prosecutor George Gascón has ousted Los Angeles County’s first black attorney general.
Jackie Lacey, who had almost 800,000 ballots to count in the elections on Tuesday, admitted Gascón in an emotional address on Friday, in which her employees and supporters took part.
“My advisors tell me that while I can bridge the gap between the two of us, the tendency of the ballot papers means that I can’t catch up enough to win this election,” said Lacey. “I am so grateful to God for giving me this incredible opportunity to serve the people of Los Angeles County.”
The competition was viewed by many, and even by Lacey himself, as an extension of the social unrest that spread across the country after George Floyd died in police custody in Minneapolis in May.
Lacey, who was also the county’s first district attorney, admitted that “what happened when I was elected may one day be enacted as a result of that move.”
“It can be said that one day the outcome of this election will be the result of our season of discontent and calls for a tsunami of change,” she said.
Gascón, a former Los Angeles police officer who oversaw reforms in the department after the Wall’s corruption scandal in the 1990s, will head an office of 1,000 lawyers and 300 investigators and has been billed as administrator for changes.
He helped create the state’s first independent bureau to bring greater transparency to investigations into alleged police brutality, and on Friday promised to reshuffle prosecutors and hold law enforcement accountable for unjustified murders.
“Angelenos spoke loud and clear,” he said. “We have to move away from political rhetoric and I think we have to unite.”
Lacey has been under increasing pressure from reform attorneys in recent years and has been the target of weekly protests led by Black Lives Matter-Los Angeles, mainly focused on her cozy relationship with law enforcement and unwillingness to prosecute police officers who are proven used excessive force.
Tensions between Lacey and BLM-LA escalated earlier this year when her husband pulled a gun on the organization’s co-founder Melina Adbullah. David Allan Lacey was charged by the California Attorney General in August with three gun attacks and pleaded not guilty in October.
Abdullah previously told NBC that BLM-LA had “tried everything” to forge a better relationship with Lacey, but the prosecutor repeatedly refused to meet Adbullah in person or with the families of people killed by law enforcement officers.
Gascón, on the other hand, has already turned to Black Lives Matter-LA and promised to meet with the victims’ families as early as next week, said Abdullah. While Abdullah Gascón attributes a willingness to work with advocates of criminal justice reform, the Black Lives Matter movement is unwilling to give him a free pass, she said.
“We hold him responsible,” said Abdullah. “It doesn’t mean he’s going to do everything right, but we’re already seeing a corner in the way we’ll interact with him.”
Gascón, who immigrated to Los Angeles from Cuba as a teenager, was a long-time member of the Los Angeles Police Department before becoming police chief in Mesa, Arizona in 2006. Then-Mayor of San Francisco Gavin Newsom named him his city’s chief of police in 2009, and two years later, Gascón occupied the San Francisco District Attorney’s seat vacated by Senator Kamala Harris when she became Attorney General in California.
Lacey heavily criticized Gascón for failing to prosecute officers involved in murders during his eight-year tenure in San Francisco. He defended his decisions by saying that all victims were armed and that the law strongly advocated the police.
Gascón also pushed back, citing Lacey’s own account of the prosecution of just one homicide case against a law enforcement officer out of 340 fatal shootings during her two terms in office. He pointed to the $ 7 million campaign that Lacey received from the police unions when she ran for re-election.
Gascón, meanwhile, raised $ 12 million, mostly from wealthy donors campaigning for criminal justice reform, The Associated Press reported. Billionaire George Soros gave $ 2.25 million, and philanthropist Patty Quillin, who is married to Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, gave $ 1.6 million, according to the Los Angeles Times. Hastings gave $ 500,000.
Dennis Romero contributed to this.