SF DA Jenkins declares victory; Raju wins PD race

  • by Cynthia Laird, News Editor
  • Tuesday November 8, 2022
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San Francisco District Attorney Brooke Jenkins. Photo: Courtesy the campaign
San Francisco District Attorney Brooke Jenkins. Photo: Courtesy the campaign

San Francisco District Attorney Brooke Jenkins, who was appointed to the post after the recall of former DA Chesa Boudin, declared victory Wednesday in the race to complete his term, while Public Defender Mano Raju easily won his reelection campaign.

Jenkins had a comfortable margin of 56.33% of the vote, according to unofficial updated returns from the San Francisco Department of Elections.

"I extend my thanks and gratitude to the voters of San Francisco for placing their trust in me to serve as district attorney," she stated in an email to supporters.

"It is an honor of a lifetime to be elected and I pledge that improving and promoting public safety will be my and our office's top priority," Jenkins added.

The other candidates, attorneys John Hamasaki and Joe Alioto Veronese, both former police commissioners, were at 43.67% and 12.61%, respectively. A fourth candidate, Maurice Chenier, was at 4.58%, according to the preliminary figures.

"We can be a Democratic city ... we can be a liberal city, but stand for public safety," Jenkins said at her victory party.

After the first round of ranked choice voting, based on the preliminary numbers, Alioto Veronese and Chenier would be eliminated.

Following the recall of Boudin in June, Mayor London Breed named Jenkins to take his place. Jenkins had been one of the leading spokespeople for the Safer SF Without Boudin recall campaign and had quit her job as an assistant district attorney in Boudin's office to join the campaign against him.

But her five-month tenure has been controversial. Criticism started when it was revealed that she was paid more than $100,000 by a nonprofit linked to the recall campaign. During much of the last year, Jenkins, who resigned from the DA's office last fall, became the public face of the recall campaign, for which she said she was a volunteer. In an editorial board meeting with the Bay Area Reporter, Jenkins said that she should have revealed the payments sooner.

There were also widely reported instances when she was an assistant district attorney in which she was accused of coaching a child witness and withheld discovery in two separate cases. Jenkins was adamant that she's never been found to have committed misconduct. She said that the child witness incident resulted from someone from the public defender's office secretly filming her outside of court talking to the 4-year-old witness, explaining the court process. (The judge found no misconduct and the jury hung in that case.) With the discovery issue, Jenkins acknowledged that "a few items of evidence, nothing exculpatory" weren't turned over to the defense, but she said it was not intentional and she was not found to have committed misconduct. (Prosecutors dismissed the case and restarted the prosecution, according to the San Francisco Standard.)

More recently, retired Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Martha Goldin filed a complaint against Jenkins with the State Bar of California, alleging that Jenkins violated State Bar Rules and the Business and Professions Code through acts of dishonesty in connection with the payment by the nonprofit. In a campaign statement, Jenkins dismissed the complaint and pointed to her office's work with the San Francisco Police Department in arresting an alleged drug dealer who was preparing to sell seven pounds of fentanyl.

Despite the political attacks, Jenkins had amassed considerable support with elected officials and community groups eager to see a change in the DA's office from the progressive Boudin, particularly in addressing property crimes and open-air drug dealing. Jenkins had broad support in the LGBTQ Castro neighborhood in which she met with local merchants and did a walking tour with gay District 8 Supervisor Rafael Mandelman, who endorsed her. During a virtual meeting of the Castro Merchants Association, Jenkins was warmly received, as the B.A.R. previously reported.

Jenkins did retain Boudin's external Innocence Commission and, in late September, named Julia Cervantes to serve as the DA office's representative on the panel. Cervantes leads the office's post-conviction review unit and has prior experience in the DA's office, where she worked for many years.

SF Public Defender Mano Raju. Photo: Courtesy the campaign  

Public defender's race
Raju, who has been the public defender since Breed appointed him following the death of Jeff Adachi in 2019, easily won reelection with 69.75% of the vote, according to preliminary returns that were updated November 10.

On Thursday, Raju issued a statement thanking voters.

"I am grateful and excited to embark on a new four-year term as public defender, knowing that San Franciscans have expressed confidence in my leadership and the work that our office does on behalf of indigent community members and their families every single day," he stated.

"As the only elected public Defender in California, I take seriously my responsibility and the role of our San Francisco Public Defender's office to lead and engage with our peers and community partners around the state," he added. "I'm committed to the idea that public defenders, in conjunction with labor, educators, housing advocates, mental health professionals, and immigrant and racial justice advocates, can push an agenda that will lead to truly healthier and safer communities."

After running unopposed three years ago to complete Adachi's term, Raju this year faced challenger Rebecca Young, who is a former deputy public defender and private defense attorney. On her campaign website, she stated that the office has lost sight of its "core mission at the expense of quality representation of its clients in the Criminal Justice system." She also claimed staff morale was low.

Raju disputed those characterizations. With 240 people in the public defender's office, Raju told the B.A.R. that he has invested in training and in promoting candidates to management positions. "I've never seen morale so good," he said during an editorial board meeting.

The public defender's office represents those criminal defendants who cannot afford legal representation.

Updated, 11/10/22: This article has been updated with comments from Public Defender Mano Raju.

Updated, 11/10/22: This article was updated with new figures from the Department of Elections.

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