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Can Nathan Hochman unseat George Gascón as L.A. County D.A.?

Los Angeles Township Atty. George Gascón had a tough showing on Tuesday night, receiving an astonishingly low percentage of votes for an incumbent, as polls showed a majority of voters viewed him negatively.

But experts say he may have gotten exactly what he needed.

As of Wednesday afternoon, Gascón led the crowded primary with 21% of the vote, closely followed by former federal prosecutor Nathan Hockman with 17.7%. More than 40% of the ballots have not yet been counted, leaving only the deputy mayor uncounted. Atty. Jonathan Hatami scored 13.2% and had a big goal of stopping the Gascon vs. Hoffman showdown in November.

Consultants and political observers said Gascon's performance was weak for an incumbent in a countywide election. But the “godfather of progressive prosecutors” is perhaps the person he wanted in Hochman, a former Republican whom Gascón is trying to portray as a conservative in the November election. Some experts predict that more liberals will vote for Joe Biden as president. Against Donald Trump.

“This is not going to be a 'shades of grey' election,” said Dan Schnur, a former adviser to Republican politicians who teaches political communication at USC. “The fact that Mr. Hochman is one of the most conservative voices in the race allows Mr. Gascón to draw a sharper contrast in a left-leaning city like Los Angeles. But the fact that Mr. Hochman is one of the most conservative voices on the campaign trail allows Mr. Gascón to draw a sharper contrast in a left-leaning city like Los Angeles. The facts suggest he is still starting at a significant disadvantage.”

Hochman, who ran unsuccessfully for state attorney general as a Republican in 2022, has pushed back against the idea that he is too conservative to run in the November election, a point often used by his opponents in the primary. Pointed out. He describes himself as a centrist who has registered with both the Republican and Democratic parties in the past, and is currently running as an independent on a promise to depoliticize the district attorney's office. He said he never voted for Trump, described Trump's politics as “socially moderate” and said his own campaign had bipartisan support.

However, an investigation into his campaign contributions revealed that Mr. Hochman had received more than $500,000 from Republican mega-donor Gerald Marcil. His campaign also paid more than $100,000 to Pruvius Group, a Republican company that organized Trump's 2020 campaign fundraiser.

Brian Van Riper, a political consultant not involved in the campaign, said Gascón's strategy “will be to project a more Donald Trump image than a Nathan Hockman image.” They're going to run against Donald Trump. ”

Mr. Gascon and his agents wasted little time trying to portray Mr. Hochman as too conservative. Jamara Hayner, a strategist for Gascón's campaign, said Wednesday that Gascón's major performance was “as expected given the months of packed fields and millions of dollars he has committed to the D.A. ” he said.

“There's a clear choice between Democrats and Republicans heading into November, and I'm very optimistic about that,” Haner said.

The California Prosecutors Alliance, a group of progressive district attorneys run by Gascón allies, also described Hochman on Wednesday as “a longtime Republican who claims to be an independent in an apparent effort to cover up a right-wing agenda.” sent a large number of emails.

Hochman describes his policy platform as a “hard middle,” with some positions striking a moderate tone. He supports diversion for nonviolent low-level offenders and is an advocate for CARE courts, which provide voluntary treatment and services to people experiencing homelessness. But his statements about public safety can come close to apocalyptic, including comparing Los Angeles to “Gotham City.”

Hochman's fundraising ability could make him a strong challenger in November. He easily navigated the primary field with campaign funds, and after Gascón raised more than $12 million in a successful 2020 bid, a challenger will need a significant war chest.

To win re-election, Mr. Gascón will need to overcome the perception that he has been soft on crime and has run his government in a way that critics say is divisive. During his term, Gascón lost the support of nearly all prosecutors, faced two recall attempts, and imposed stricter rules on when prosecutors can use sentencing enhancements or try juveniles as adults. The restrictive policies were constantly criticized.

In a lawsuit over California's “three strikes” law, a judge deemed Gascón's policy of not requiring these enhancements illegal. Gascon has appealed, and the matter will go to the state Supreme Court.

Hochman has vowed to strengthen the policies of progressive district attorneys and has pledged to serve as prosecutor in the “trial of Georges Gascón.”

“The witnesses we bring forward will be real victims of his policies,” Hochman said in an interview Wednesday. “Shop owners will be the ones who will see their savings and life's work destroyed as they are pepper-sprayed by snatch robbers. People whose homes will be robbed and their cars broken into. It's going to be parents who have lost their children to fentanyl poisoning.”

Property and violent crimes increased by about 8% in Los Angeles County from 2019 to 2022, according to data from the California Department of Justice. Under Gascon's policies, the agency's misdemeanor prosecution rate has plummeted, but critics of the decision have linked it to an increase in real estate crimes, particularly vehicle break-ins. In some cases, critics have also linked Gascón's policies to violent crime.

But criminologists say it's too simplistic to blame short-term crime trends on prosecutorial policies. Los Angeles Police Department data also shows that murders and robberies have declined over the past two years.

Van Riper said the statistics may not mean much to voters who are already afraid of crime. However, Gascón could face an even more favorable electorate in November.data View only 20% of registered voters in LA County As of Wednesday afternoon, people had returned their ballots, and those returning skewed older and more conservative.

Hochman believes he has the support of virtually every voter who chose a candidate other than Gascón, calling some of his opponents to be part of a team that “can truly restore the prosecutor's office's profile.” He said he plans to invite them.

Schnurr and van Riper both noted that Hochman is unlikely to support all of his anti-Gascon supporters, as supporters of more moderate candidates may return to their current positions. . But the candidates who performed closest to Hochman in the primary, Khatami and Superior Court Judge Debra Archuleta, ran tough-on-crime campaigns that could lead to voters turning to the former federal prosecutor. There is.

Mr. Van Riper, in his race against Mr. Trump on the November ballot, said his tenure in office included dramatic improvements in the agency's response to wrongful convictions; Mr. Gascón said he could benefit from attracting more liberal voters who welcome the success of the Democratic Party. He accuses police of misconduct — turns out.

But Hochman's plan is to run a campaign that focuses on public safety, not partisanship, and brings together supporters of his main rivals and law enforcement leaders.

“The only way for Georges Gascón to win is to speak out about politics, not public safety,” Hochman said. “He needs to distract voters from their own safety.”

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