Election 2022

San Francisco Recalls Progressive District Attorney Chesa Boudin

Mayor London Breed, who has herself recently pivoted away from criminal justice reforms, will select Boudin's successor.


With more than two thirds of votes counted, San Franciscans have voted by a comfortable margin to recall District Attorney Chesa Boudin.

Boudin, the latest in a trend of progressive prosecutors across the country, came into office in January 2020 promising reform. In office, he expanded diversion programs, like drug or mental health treatment, as an alternative to incarceration; he refused to try juveniles as adults or seek the death penalty; and he forbade prosecutors in his office from seeking cash bail.

But many blamed Boudin for rising crime in his city. Last fall, viral videos spread of smash-and-grab robberies in the Bay Area. And rates of homicide, gun violence, and car theft are up since Boudin entered office. Recall efforts began over a year ago, in April 2021.

At the same time, it is not apparent that Boudin was to blame: As The New York Times reported this week, "There is no compelling evidence that Mr. Boudin's policies have made crime significantly worse in San Francisco. Overall crime in San Francisco has changed little" under his tenure.

As Reason's Elizabeth Nolan Brown wrote, "Democrats are far from immune from the crime panics that plague conservatives, and Boudin is serving as their scapegoat." Supporters of criminal justice reform worried that a successful recall effort could lead to efforts to oust other progressive prosecutors across the country. Boudin may have indeed been bad at the politics of the job, but to blame him for single-handedly causing crime to spike is entirely different.

San Francisco Mayor London Breed will now choose Boudin's replacement. Breed, who previously advocated defunding the city's police budget, pivoted late last year, declaring it time for "the reign of criminals who are destroying our city…to come to an end" and pledging to be "less tolerant of all the bullshit that has destroyed our city."