Nathan Hochman | The Gascón Recall Roars Again

Nathan Hochman, Guest Commentary

While voters will have the chance to vote L.A. County District Attorney George Gascón out of office in the 2024 elections, his recall is not dead. 

On July 7, the committee to support his recall filed a lawsuit against the L.A. County Registrar-Recorder in which it asserted that the registrar unlawfully rejected over 26,000 valid recall petition signatures and improperly inflated the signature requirement by over 25,000 signatures. 

Net result: the recall effort actually produced enough valid signatures to get the Gascón recall on the ballot. If successful, what this most likely means is that on March 5, 2024, voters will be able to recall Gascón and vote for the next DA in the primary election – a first in L.A. County history. 

If Gascón receives the 30% of the vote he is currently polling at, he would lose the recall and be immediately out of office, but may be able to come in as one of the top two vote getters in the primary, thus making it to the November 2024 general election. However, Gascón would then be running not as the incumbent DA but as the “just-got-recalled” DA, setting up a perfect showdown for his opponent. 

How can such a strange result occur? The story starts with Gascón coming into office in December 2020 and enacting a slew of controversial, pro-criminal policies, like giving breaks to those who use guns during crimes, those who steal just under $950, and those juveniles committing very violent crimes. As violent crime rates in L.A. County began to soar, many L.A. County residents grew so frustrated over Gascón’s lack of concern for crime victims and safety that they started a recall drive to oust him from office. 

Thirty-six cities in L.A. County, led by Santa Clarita, passed no confidence motions against Gascón. And, 97.8% of the 800 deputy DAs in his own office supported recalling him. 

In the end, 715,833 signatures of L.A. County voters were submitted in support of recalling Gascón, with only 566,857 needed to trigger the recall election. With a buffer of over 148,000 signatures, it seemed like a recall Gascón election was destined to happen. 

The registrar had a different idea. On Aug. 15, 2022, he announced that he had found an astounding 195,783 signatures invalid, leaving the recall effort 46,807 signatures short to qualify the petition for a recall election.  

The recall committee challenged the registrar, who conceded that he inflated the signature requirement, the number needed to qualify the recall, by over 25,000 signatures. In addition, the recall committee argued the registrar illegally rejected over 26,000 valid recall petition signatures.  

In sum, the recall committee demonstrated that it submitted 546,234 valid recall signatures, exceeding the 540,338 number of signatures actually needed to qualify the recall petition. 

If the court orders the registrar to certify the recall petition as sufficient, the Board of Supervisors will most likely schedule the recall vote on March 5, 2024, coinciding with the DA primary election. If over 50% vote YES on the recall, then Gascón is gone immediately as DA. 

But that might not be the final word. Gascón could very possibly finish in the top two in the primary election and attempt to get his job back in the November 2024 general election, this time, however, as the recalled instead of incumbent DA. 

For those who have decried the recall Gascón process for over a year, 2024 is shaping up to be the year voters will get to oust Gascón not just once, but twice. 

Nathan Hochman is a former U.S. assistant attorney general, federal prosecutor, and L.A. City Ethics Commission president who supported Gascón’s recall and is running to defeat him in the 2024 election.

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