The people vs. Chesa Boudin

Boudin’s struck me as an awkward position to take, in some way. There’s plenty of big money in the recall race, to be sure, and some of that money is Republican. But a large share of San Franciscans have expressed their dissatisfaction with the district attorney and their concerns about public safety. Many are liberals, and a lot of them are progressives. Indeed, perhaps the most compelling voice challenging Boudin is not Greenberg, who used to be a registered Republican (he’s an independent now, he told me); it is Brooke Jenkins, a progressive prosecutor herself.

Jenkins supports diversion programs for low-level crimes, she told me, as well as programs to shorten excessive sentences and free the wrongfully convicted. A Black and Latina woman, she deplores what mass incarceration has done to communities of color. She said that she appreciated how compassionate and reform-focused San Francisco was as a city. Thus, she said, she looked forward to working with Boudin when he came into office.

Yet, working on murder cases for him, she said, she came to question whether he was the right person for the job. He had decided what not to do and where to pull back, she said. But he had not figured out how to fight the crime the city was facing. “Chesa has refused to switch hats,” she told me. “He maintains the outlook or the mindset of a public defender. His view is that crime is just a part of life, something that we all have to endure and deal with. It’s never going to go away. No amount of punishment for any offender is going to change what happened, even in a murder case.”

She worried that this posture discourages people from reporting offenses against them. She also worried that it disrespects the victims of violence—a personal issue for her, after her husband’s cousin was murdered in the summer of 2020. “I don’t think he’s willing to listen to those Black voices,” she told me. “He believes, in his mind, that he knows what’s best for them.”