Battle Begins for 2019 District Attorney Race

Former Police Commission President Suzy Loftus pulled papers Tuesday, challenging George Gascón for the seat of District Attorney.

Mayor London Breed endorses Suzy Loftus as she announces her candidacy for San Francisco District Attorney on Sept. 18, 2018. (Kevin N. Hume)

More than two dozen jubilant, chatty people crammed into the hallway outside the Department of Elections Tuesday to support a serious contender for District Attorney George Gascón’s seat next November. With more than a year to go, former-Police Commission President Suzy Loftus has pulled papers, declaring the race officially underway. 

Loftus has a solid resume behind her. A former prosecutor for the Western Addition, she worked under now-Senator Kamala Harris on both the local and state level. She sat on the Police Commission during SFPD’s most turbulent moments in recent history, when a spate of police shootings, a racist text message scandal, and the forced-resignation of Police Chief Greg Suhr rocked relationships between the community and authorities. Meetings ran late into the evening as people screamed into the microphone, and Loftus managed to handle it all with both professionalism and a gentle sense of humanity that stuck with those who saw her in action. 

Although the race is young, she already has a strong team of supporters behind her, including Mayor London Breed, Supervisors Malia Cohen, Vallie Brown, and Katy Tang, Human Rights Commission Executive Director Sheryl Davis, and BART Director Bevan Dufty.

“It’s not easy to step out on faith, and to support someone who’s running against a sitting elected official. But Suzy Loftus is making it easy, because she’s been in the trenches doing the work,” Breed says.

Unlike traditional City Hall politics, the race of District Attorney blurs the lines of moderate and progressive. As Mission Local pointed out over the summer, Gascón is arguably one of the most progressive DA’s the city has had in years. But despite her mostly-moderate backing at Tuesday’s event, Loftus holds a number of values one could consider left of center. 

“San Francisco has a long history of being a progressive DA’s office,” Loftus says. “What that means is: We’ve got to handle the cases where people are the most vulnerable, and the harm is the highest. I’m talking about elder abuse, domestic violence, stalking — we have to handle those cases really well. And we also have to do a good job of cycling low-level offenders out of a broken system.”

Chief among community complaints around Gascón has been his perceived lack of willingness to press charges against San Francisco police officers who shot and killed residents, many of which were not armed. This includes the officers behind the deaths of Luis Góngora Pat, Mario Woods, and Amilcar Perez-Lopez.

Loftus says she’ll take a different approach. 

“Part of the issue in those cases is how transparent the [District Attorney’s] office was with the community throughout the process. I will run a transparent investigation, I will make sure that what the law is is understood, what the facts are is understood, and I will fully personally investigate every single shooting,” she says. “Nothing does more damage to the relationship of trust between the police and local communities than when these fatal shootings happen. If there is a crime there I will charge the case.”

But in a city mired in conversations around auto break-ins, property theft, cash bail, and marijuana legalization, whoever wins next November will undoubtedly have their hands full. That’s not news to Loftus. 

“You’ve got to be Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire,” she says about the job. “You’ve got to be good at everything. You’ve got to be able to dance backward and forwards.”

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