Several networks called the race in favor of the recall less than an hour after polls closed.
The recall effort against the Democratic district attorney became a bipartisan rallying call by Republicans eager to pounce against a public official whose progressive criminal justice reform policy created the image of lawlessness and danger in San Francisco. Meanwhile, local Democrats sought to contrast sharply their support for police reform with Boudin’s policies, widely seen as sympathetic to criminal suspects.
A member of the California Democratic Party Executive Board, Nima Rahimi, penned an op-ed last week voicing his support for the recall effort. He decried “Boudin’s disingenuous campaign” while upholding his consistent support for criminal justice reform measures, a position reflected by many San Francisco Democrats who are otherwise liberal but feel Boudin’s policies have gone too far.
“Personally, I believe Boudin harms our party’s goals on criminal justice reform, in part, because people have died and will continue to die as a result of his choices and his policies. We have to hold our own accountable,” Rahimi wrote for SFGate.
When the San Francisco Board of Elections certified the petition in October, organizers submitted more than 83,000 signatures to election officials, requesting a recall election, roughly 32,000 more than required to put the issue on the ballot. The effort later gained broad support even in Boudin’s office, with two prosecutors leaving the district attorney’s office and joining the effort to recall him that same month.
Proponents of the recall effort suggested Boudin’s policies toward criminal justice often sought to avoid charging criminals or settled for reduced punishments, while his supporters argued his platform fell in line with voters who voiced support for measures to reduce sentences.
A recall effort against Boudin was particularly incendiary given his narrow victory against Democratic candidate Suzy Loftus, who supported his removal from office. Boudin defeated Loftus by just 2,840 votes in the 2019 general election.
The now-ousted district attorney drew major criticism in 2019 for eliminating cash bail and refusing to cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement. In March 2021, Boudin’s public perception also took a hit when he dismissed the killing of an 84-year-old Thai immigrant as a “sort of temper tantrum” gone wrong.
The vote to oust Boudin hardly comes as a surprise, as public polling data suggested the district attorney was in danger of losing his post after the city’s elections board certified the recall petition against him. Nearly 56% of likely voters said they would vote to recall Boudin, according to a public survey conducted from May 26-29 by the San Francisco Examiner.
Polling data for Boudin’s job approval also showcased similar results from the February recall of three San Francisco school board members for actions and policies considered so out-of-touch that the city’s Democratic mayor supported the effort.
Despite overwhelming support for Boudin’s recall, some polling data suggest the optics of Boudin’s ouster won’t affect other progressive criminal justice reform causes sought by members of his party, given that nearly 63% of San Francisco voters are Democrats, compared to just under 7% who are Republicans.
Nearly 61% of California voters prefer treatment and rehabilitation as opposed to imprisonment despite 65% of state voters saying they believe criminal activity is worsening, according to a David Binder Research poll from last June.
“We are conditioning people to believe they can do whatever they want in San Francisco with no consequences,” Brooke Jenkins, a former prosecutor and recall proponent, told a local ABC affiliate.
“I think San Francisco sees the need for a little bit more balance to social justice and criminal justice issues,” she added.
While San Francisco’s crime has not increased uniformly in the city during the pandemic, there has been an increase specifically in shoplifting and car thefts, as well as a spike in the homicide rate, according to the city’s police COMPSTAT data from 2021.