Undecided in the LADA race? Here are the candidates on important issues

(Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times)

Undecided in the LADA race? Here are the candidates on important issues

California Politics

James Queally

March 2, 2024

Polls show nearly two-thirds of voters remain undecided in the Los Angeles County district attorney’s race. With a historically large field of a dozen prosecutors, judges and defense attorneys trying to unseat George Gascn, the challengers have struggled to differentiate themselves from each other. Even their campaign ads sounded identical.

If you’re still staring at the ballot in confusion, here’s a quick guide to the candidates who took the strongest and most distinctive positions on some of the most hotly debated issues in the election.

Your guide to the LA County district attorney race: 11 candidates want to dethrone GascnImprovements in sentencing

Gascn has faced criticism for many of its reformist policies, chief among them heavy restrictions on sentencing enhancements.

Enhancements can extend defendants’ prison sentences by years in a variety of scenarios, including crimes related to gang activity or involving the use of a firearm. Critics claim they are disproportionately used against people of color.

While Gascn has somewhat relented on its stance on enhancements, they are still often filed in cases where police officers are injured or killed in the line of duty. For example, almost the entire field of challengers has expressed a desire to stay behind for years to come. beams if applicable.

Former federal prosecutor Jeff Chemerinsky and attorney Dan Kapelovitz are the only candidates who have expressed hesitation about completely undoing Gascn’s work on improvements. Chemerinsky says their use in gang cases should be closely examined, warning that they have been “misused” in the past.

Kapelovitz, the only candidate to the left of Gascn, has been dismissed from all policies he believes contribute to mass incarceration, including improvements.

Capital punishment

Gascn banned prosecutors from seeking the death penalty when he took office, a move that has been somewhat symbolic since the US administration. Gavin Newsom had already imposed a moratorium on the death penalty in California in 2019.

Gascn’s main challengers include former federal prosecutor Nathan Hochman and Deputy Dist. Atty. Jonathan Hatami has pledged to seek the death penalty in extreme cases, citing both mass shootings and the killing of police officers as examples.

Chemerinsky has said he does not support the death penalty. Deputy Dist. Atty. Eric Siddall also opposes the death penalty, saying it is impractical given Newsom’s executive order.

LA County Superior Court Judge David S. Milton was the only candidate who seemed enthusiastic about using the death penalty, often citing his experience winning death sentences as a prosecutor as a reason to vote for him.

Juvenile law

Gascn came to power with a complete ban on trying juveniles as adults. He withdrew it in 2022 after national criticism of the Hannah Tubbs case, in which the office allowed a 26-year-old to plead guilty to sexually assaulting a child in juvenile court. Gascn has since changed its policy and established a committee that has approved 14 cases eligible for transfer to adult court, a representative of the Public Prosecution Service said.

Hatami and Chemerinsky say they would largely treat juveniles as such, though neither would commit to specific cases in which they would seek to try teens as adults. LA Supreme Court Judge Craig Mitchell said in an interview with The Times last year that he would likely only seek to try teenagers accused of murder or child rape as adults.

Experience factor

The general election


will take charge of an office in turmoil, leading some to call for a pair of steady hands to replace Gascn.

While many of the candidates boast decades of legal experience, Deptuy Dist. Atty. Maria Ramirez has spent most of her time in a management position within the office she plans to run. With 30 years of service

12 of those in management

she was director of specialized prosecutions at the agency before clashing with Gascn early in his tenure. She has since sued the office, claiming she was removed from that position because she challenged Gascn’s policies.

Hochman boasts the most diverse resume in this field, having served as a federal prosecutor, defense attorney, candidate for statewide political office, and chairman of the LA Ethics Commission during a 34-year professional career.

Cash bail

The LA County Superior Court system last year overhauled the way it uses cash bail, prompting a lawsuit in more than a dozen cities that a judge all but dismissed last December. Hatami has been the most outspoken supporter of the trial among Gascn’s challengers, claiming during a debate last year that the new bail scheme is leading to an increase in repeat offenders. However, data from the legal system does show this


only 3% of the approximately 5,000 people treated under the new schedule were rearrested during the first three weeks it was in effect.

Although Gascn has issued a policy limiting the number of prosecutors who can seek bail, only the legal system can regulate the types of cases for which a suspect can be arraigned and released.

Chemerinsky says he is in favor of “bail reform,” but has not provided many details. Siddall, Ramirez and Mitchell have all said the bail is “imperfect.”


Deputy Dist. Atty. John McKinney has put forward the most thorough position on how bail can be modified. He favors risk assessment tools that estimate a suspect’s likelihood of re-offending by analyzing his criminal record, history of failure to appear in court and other similar factors.


The district attorney’s office filed charges in only 47% of the misdemeanor cases it filed last year, down from 72% in 2020, then Dist. Atty. Jackie Lacey’s last year as president. The drop-off is by design because Gascn wants the office to focus less on what he considers low-level violations.

Gascn’s overall effect on misdemeanor crime in the province is questionable. He has no influence on the prosecution of crimes


major population centers like LA and Long Beach, which have their own city attorneys to handle these cases

. But

its stance on low-level offenses such as drug possession and trespassing has led to the perception that Gascn is weak on crime.

Citing his time working with homeless and mentally ill people through the Skid Row Running Club, Mitchell says he is most qualified to improve the agency’s stance on crimes. If elected, the judge says he plans to charge suspects with simple drug possession, with the intent of getting the person into a treatment program.

Hochman and Hatami also support the use of drug courts for suspects suffering from addiction, and Chemerinsky supports diversion programs for suspects in similar situations.


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