LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – Incumbent Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey took part in a virtual debate Thursday night against George Gascón, the man attempting to unseat her, amid one the most closely watched Southern California races this November to decide will lead the nation’s largest local prosecutor’s office.
“But now that he sees the job, he wants it, and he’ll say whatever he can to get it,” Lacey said.
The 63-year-old Lacey is seeking her third term as L.A. County DA, a position she has held since December 2012.
The 66-year-old Gascón, a retired Los Angeles police officer, has served as both police chief and district attorney for San Francisco. Both appointments were made by current California governor and former San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom.
Both candidates started the debate accusing each of letting hate crime spike on their respective watches.
“You’re actually safer from violent crime in L.A. County, if you look at crime per capita, than you are in San Francisco,” Lacey said.
“Under Mrs. Lacey’s stewardship, we have seen crime go up in L.A. County,” Gascón countered.
Another topic was why voters should trust either candidate to hold police officers accountable. Over her eight years in office, Lacey has prosecuted only one officer in more than 600 cases which involved a shooting. Gascón didn’t prosecute any in his nine years as San Francisco DA.
“All the cases that we had police killings that were presented to me, were armed suspects,” Gascón said. “But even in those cases, I recognized that some of those killings were unnecessary.”
“It’s just so disingenuous to say, ‘look I couldn’t do it, but it wasn’t necessary,’” Lacey responded. “So what? That’s not giving the family justice.”
Although Lacey is heavily endorsed by police unions, she stressed that her decisions were based on the law and evidence.
“I cannot be bought off, I will enforce the law, I have enforced the law,” Lacey said.
L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti this week switched his endorsement from Lacey to Gascón.
“You can either go with the past, or we can go into the 21st century where we go for hope, rehabilitation,” Gascón said.
Gascón earned a November runoff against Lacey after coming in second to her in the March primary. Lacey received 48.65% of the vote to Gascón’s 28.22%.
Lacey needed to finish with more than 50% of the vote to avoid the runoff.
Lacey has been under increasing pressure from critics. For months, protesters have been holding weekly demonstrations outside of her downtown office and her home. In the wake of the George Floyd protests, they argue that over her tenure as DA she has not done enough to prosecute law enforcement officers for misconduct.