San Francisco district attorney race heats up

As the controversial election for San Francisco district attorney approaches, some members of the Urban community have been closely following the race. The three main candidates in this race are mayoral appointee Brooke Jenkins, progressive John Hamasaki and labor union endorsed Joe Alioto Veronese. The San Francisco district attorney seat opened up when Chesa Boudin, the former district attorney, was recalled in a special election in June of 2022. 

Over the past year, the district attorney’s office has been called to action on highly contentious issues in San Francisco. Some main concerns are hate crimes, fighting unjust sentences and the possession and dealing of drugs, especially the surge in overdoses from drugs laced with  fentanyl. Members of the Urban community have been engaging with this election in multiple ways, through forums held in Urban affinity spaces, activist groups outside of school and conversing with family members on what they’ve observed in their neighborhoods.

What Have You Missed?: 

  1. June 7th, Chesa Boudin recalled in special election 
  2. July 7th, Mayor London Breed appointed Brooke Jenkins, a previous Boudin staffer, turned face of the Boudin recall, as the new district attorney 
  3. July 28th – August 3rd, Maurice Chenier and Joe Alioto Veronese file for election but have yet to elicit significant voter support
  4. August 11th, Former police commissioner, John Hamasaki, declared candidacy. Hamasaki received support from former Boudin supporters looking for progressive policies
  5.  November 8th, election date

Stella Reynaga ‘24, a Cow Hollow resident, learned about the election during the recall from her parents and online forums. “I noticed an uptick in petty theft crime in my neighborhood reported on online forums like NextDoor,” Reynaga said. “Even though Cow Hollow is considered a generally safer neighborhood, stealing, vandalizing and petty theft have been on the rise.” 

Other than day-to-day incidents of crime, Urban community members have been focused on the policies and intentions of each candidate. Urban English teacher Courtney Rein has been following the district attorney’s office since Boudin ran for election in the fall of 2019. Rein, the faculty leader of the Anti-Racist White Priveliege Awareness affinity space (AWPA), hosted staffers from Boudin’s anti-recall campaign for a lunchtime forum. When describing her hopes for the next district attorney, Rein said, “I am interested in somebody who can be progressive in terms of looking out for experiences of victims and survivors of crime.” 

Jenkins and Hamasaki have both acknowledged systemic crime and rampant drug markets as main issues, but their stances differ when it comes to solutions. 

Jin Valencia-Tow ‘25, a Hamasaki supporter and political youth activist, sees the criminalization of addiction as one of San Francisco’s biggest issues. Valencia-Tow became disinterested in Jenkins’ campaign due to her new five strikes plan announced in September. 

Going into effect immediately after its announcement, this plan bundles five or more drug possession and paraphernalia citations into a single, more weighted case. These bundled cases are then sent to the Community Justice Center, a court that primarily focuses on people with addictions or mental health issues. The previous district attorney, Chesa Boudin, was criticized by voters and Jenkins for only securing three convictions for “possession with intent to sell” drugs in 2021. None of these three cases were for fentanyl, despite the San Francisco Chronicle’s reported 500+ fentanyl deaths in 2020. 

In a press conference on October 5th surrounding the impact of fentanyl in San Francisco, Jenkins made her policies clear, she said “it is a war on fentanyl.” 

Valencia-Tow believes that this policy is too reminiscent of the failed Reagan-era war on drugs. When describing why he supports Hamasaki, Valencia-Tow said, “Instead of throwing people in jail, I agree that we need to focus on having facilities where simultaneously we can provide housing, counseling support and actual rehabilitation practices.” 

Rein sees this election as a vital time for members of the Urban community to take their beliefs into action. “I think it’s a moment where we have to really figure out what it means to walk our ideology and to live our ideology rather than just talking about what we think justice is,” said Rein.“Thinking about what that means in terms of our own lifestyles, our own voting and our own relationship to wealth, power and space.”