By The Signal Editorial Board
The Santa Clarita Valley was, not all that long ago, considered to be solid red. As in, the politics of its residents were solidly conservative.
That’s changed over the past couple of decades, to the point where now the valley — and the legislative districts that include it — can be fairly described as “purple.”
As in, not solid red. But not solid blue, either. So, there are many issues upon which honest SCV residents will disagree. And that’s OK.
But we do believe there is one area where most SCV residents — Republicans and Democrats alike — can, do, and should agree. And that has to do with prioritizing the safety of the public, and the children we raise here.
That’s why the latest endorsement to come from the Santa Clarita Valley Democrats was so dumbfounding: The SCV Democrats recently voted to endorse District Attorney George Gascón for re-election.
Yes. THAT George Gascón. The one who, upon taking office in 2020, made it clear through a series of special directives that his intent was to reduce the prison population, even if it means turning dangerous criminals back onto the streets.
Certain categories of crimes are not even prosecuted under Gascón. Special enhancements that could result in more severe sentences for things like gang-related crime are not pursued. He actively seeks to reduce the sentences of already-convicted violent criminals and has prohibited his deputies from representing the public’s interests at parole hearings for even those convicted of the most violent crimes.
Remember that Gascón was district attorney of San Francisco from 2011 to 2019. How did that work out?
Having brought his pro-crime road show south, Gascón’s lax policies on prosecution have now contributed to increasing crime in L.A. County, and drawn the ire of the Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs and even his own subordinates, the Association of Deputy District Attorneys. Both nonpartisan organizations oppose his re-election.
He approaches his job as the county’s top prosecutor with the mentality of a public defender — which would be fine except that’s not at all the job description.
The public has noticed. ALADS released a poll in October reporting only 14% of voters polled said they would vote for Gascón if the election were held at that time. Considering L.A. County is well over 50% Democrat, that’s astounding.
Yet, in a news release late last month, the SCV Democrats announced their endorsement of Gascón as reflecting the alignment of Gascón’s “values with SCVD’s and the wider Santa Clarita Valley community.”
The release said: “As the current Los Angeles County District Attorney, George Gascón has been at the forefront of criminal justice reform, advocating for policies that ensure fairness, rehabilitation and community safety. His re-election will be vital to continuing the progressive changes in our criminal justice system.”
Again. That would make perfect sense if they were endorsing a candidate for public defender. You know -— someone whose job is to look out for criminal defendants. We need a district attorney who looks out for … well, everyone else.
Further, simply refusing to do your job and declining to prosecute entire categories of crimes isn’t “reform.” It’s dereliction of duty. A district attorney should prosecute crimes, and shouldn’t be shy about prosecuting them to the fullest extent of the law if that’s what it takes to make the public safe and achieve justice for victims.
The SCV Democrats’ endorsement is shocking. Confounding. It seems highly likely that it’s out of step even with the local Democratic constituencies the organization purports to represent. Stop anyone on the corner or at the mall in Santa Clarita. Republican or Democrat. Ask them if they believe in the things George Gascón believes in. Do you really expect a significant percentage to say, “Yes, we don’t need to be tough on crime”?
We recognize that, as a political organization, the SCV Democrats will endorse Democrats, just as the corresponding local Republican organization will endorse Republicans. That’s how the game is played, after all. But there are NINE Democrats running for L.A. County district attorney in the March 5 primary and, potentially, a November 2024 runoff.
Nine. And the SCV Democrats have endorsed the one Democrat whose values, it seems clear, are most in conflict with those of SCV residents, both Republican and Democrat alike.
One of those nine Democrats, Jonathan Hatami, actually lives here in the Santa Clarita Valley. The Signal has endorsed and supported Hatami as the right DA for Los Angeles County.
He’s a deputy district attorney who is tough on crime, supports victims’ rights, believes in bail and is supportive of sensible reforms within the justice system. He fights for abused, neglected and murdered children. He’s a veteran, a dad, and he’s married to a sheriff’s deputy.
Most importantly, he is a real prosecutor who cares deeply about public safety and his community.
But if not Hatami, there are eight other Democrats who believe in law and order that the SCV Democrats could have endorsed.
The question here isn’t, and shouldn’t be, a partisan one.
It’s not Republican vs. Democrat.
Who is best suited for the role of L.A. County district attorney? Who will prioritize public safety over the interests of criminals?
It’s public safety vs. anarchy. Right vs. wrong.
Sense vs. nonsense.
The “values” of George Gascón couldn’t be further from the values of SCV residents, the vast majority of whom have sought to live here and raise their children here precisely because of its reputation over the decades as a safe community.
Santa Claritans, by and large — regardless of party affiliation — believe in hard work, public safety, family, and protecting families and children. They believe in honesty, integrity and character.
To say Gascón reflects those values as district attorney is offensive on its face.