Your guide to the L.A. County district attorney race: 11 candidates aim to unseat Gascón

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Virtually every challenger has said they will reverse the sweeping policy changes Gascón enacted on his first day in office, but the planned implementation varies on such a walk back.

Hochman, Hatami, Milton and McKinney have said they would either erase all of the district attorney’s policies or begin their terms as the “exact opposite of George Gascón.” Hochman has accused Gascón of ushering in “the golden age of criminals,” and Milton claimed the district attorney is part of a broader national attempt to “destroy our constitutional democratic republic.”

Hochman has also promised to reinstitute the use of the death penalty and order prosecutors to once again attend parole hearings for inmates they previously convicted, a practice Gascón had stopped.

Milton and Archuleta have said they would direct prosecutors to file all sentencing enhancements that can be proved, another position shared by Hochman.

Milton is the only candidate running as a Republican. Though Hochman rebranded himself for the primary as having no party preference, he ran as a Republican when he challenged Rob Bonta in the 2022 state attorney general’s race, in which he was soundly defeated.

Others have taken a more nuanced approach: Ramirez said she’d rein in Gascón’s policies but not eradicate them, instead “empowering” prosecutors to apply them on a case-by-case basis. Siddall has taken a similarly moderate path, promising to run a “progressive office that functions” with leeway on the use of sentencing enhancements. Both also said they’d focus on recruiting new prosecutors to an office that is bleeding staff.

Mitchell, a longtime judge, says he believes in “restorative justice.” But he has also blasted Gascón for enacting policies that he claims benefit criminals. He has said he would file all enhancements that are legally permissible, and has rejected criticism of mass incarceration, noting that due to his work with drug users in Skid Row, he believes the “timeout” provided by prison has helped change some people’s lives.

Chemerinsky — whose father, Erwin, helped craft some of Gascón’s policies — has been the only person besides Gascón to spend extended time on debate stages talking about criminal justice reform. While echoing the district attorney’s concerns about mass incarceration, he also said the office needs to focus more on prosecuting defendants who commit gun crimes and acts of violence.

Kapelovitz and Masson did not enter the race until the December 2023 deadline to file for the primary, and did not appear in early debates.

A journalist turned defense attorney, Kapelovitz seems to be the only candidate tacking to Gascón’s left. He said he will further fight to reduce mass incarceration, and has called for even tighter limits on when cases can be filed and when bail can be sought. In an email to The Times, Kapelovitz said he would also bar prosecutors from seeking bail against defendants accused of nonviolent crimes and work to recruit “justice-oriented attorneys who believe in justice reform” to fill vacancies in the office.

Masson, a cold-case prosecutor in the San Bernardino County district attorney’s office, said he would immediately drop “the hammer on all robbery, burglary and theft-related offenses, including follow-home robberies, car thefts, retail theft and catalytic converter thefts.” He also called for an end to “blanket zero-bail policies,” though L.A. County’s current bail schedule is set by the Superior Court system, not the district attorney’s office.

For a more detailed look at most of the sprawling field,click here.

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