George Gascon, longtime Republican

Charles Russo

One thing I didn’t know when I wrote about former police chief George Gascón's shocking Jan. 9 appointment as San Francisco’s next district attorney is that he has Republican roots. But then I came across a January 10 Los Angeles Times article that revealed that in 2008, Gascón described himself to the L.A. Times “as a longtime Republican.”

Gascón is now registered as “decline-to-state” but his Republican leanings could become an issue in the D.A.’s race this November, depending on what happens between now and then, in terms of decisions Gascón makes, especially around cases the San Francisco Police Department refer to his new office.

Paul Henderson, who was D.A. Kamala Harris’ chief of staff before she won the Attorney General’s race, was rumored to be Harris’ preferred choice as her replacement. But he now finds himself in the awkward position of reporting to the man he will be running against this fall.

“I respect Gascón as a law enforcement officer and I appreciate that he called me personally to inform me of the mayor’s decision,” Henderson told me. “D.A. Gascón and I will be discussing next steps and I stand ready to help him address the pressing issues facing the office.”

Henderson said the atmosphere over at the D.A.’s office is “a little crazy these days.”

“Everyone is trying to figure out what is going to happen,” Henderson said.  “All of this happened out of the blue, out of left field.”

Or right field, if you consider Gascón’s former voter registration.

“I think a lot of people were expecting something and someone different,” Henderson observed. “That’s the reality and the truth. I know I have a lot of support, but I need a little time to weigh and evaluate things.”

Political consultant Jim Stearns told the Guardian that he believes Gascón and Newsom when they say Newsom’s offer of the post to Gascón was a spur-of-the-moment decision

“I know for a fact that [Board President] David Chiu was offered the D.A. position and that Chiu and Newsom were genuinely confused about whether Chiu was going to take it or not,” Stearns said. “Chiu had discussed it at length a long time ago and rejected the notion. But then, when the offer was actually made, he said ‘I don’t know’ for a few days. Then, when he turned it down, the Mayor’s Office was in a quandary. So, I think Newsom was trying to pull a rabbit out of the hat, but this is one of those appointments that you might not make, if you really thought about it.”

As Stearns notes, Gascón had only been SFPD Chief for 18 months, and before that he was chief in Mesa, Arizona, which as Stearns puts it, “is not what you’d call a big city.”

And while Gascón, who was former high-ranking official in the Los Angeles Police Department, has since scored high marks for reducing violent crime, there were a lot of issues between SFPD and the D.A.’s office during his tenure, leaving him at risk of being accused of conflict of interest in his new role.

Perhaps the biggest of these conflicts is the question of police misconduct, which became a political hot potato during the Attorney General’s race, when attention was brought to a law that’s been on the books since 1963, when the Supreme Court ruled in Brady vs. Maryland that the government has a duty to disclose material evidence to the defense which could tend to change the outcome of the trial.

In 1972, "Brady" was expanded to require District Attorneys to turn over any information that could impeach the credibility or veracity of a police officer's testimony, or if an officer has a past record of falsifying reports or other conduct that could impact their truthfulness. But it turned out that San Francisco had never formalized a "Brady" policy. It's true that Gascón as SFPD Chief requested that searches be done as far back as 1980 for any sustained discipline actions that could be interpreted as possible "Brady" issues, but his move to D.A. raises the issue afresh.

“What better way to keep a lid on it,” Stearns opined.

So far, the D.A.’s office has not released a statement on how Gascón intends to handle potential conflicts of interests, but I’ll update this post, if it does.

Stearns speculates that part of the decision to appoint Gascón was a result of the foot-dragging that went on as a result of Chiu’s indecision, allowing lots of competing camps to canvass for their preferred picks.

“The Gettys were pushing Bock,” Stearns said, referring to Alameda County Deputy District Attorney Sharmin Bock, an expert in human trafficking. “Others were pushing for [Assistant D.A.] Andy Clark, Paul Henderson, and [Deputy City Attorney] Sean Connelly [who represented the city in police excessive force cases].”

Other names floated were Chief Assistant District Attorney David Pfeifer, David Onek, senior fellow at the Berkeley Center for Criminal Justice; and San Francisco attorney John Keker.

“Newsom may have concluded that if he pushed for any of these folks, he’d be taking sides, and that if he went for Gascón, he wouldn’t be pissing anyone off,” Stearns said.

But now it seems the whole law enforcement world in San Francisco is in an uproar, as folks start to try and figure out how the appointment impacts the D.A.’s race in November.

‘The politics of a D.A.’s office is unique,” Stearns observed. “You can be thrown a curve ball at any moment. You never know what crime is going to be committed, and all of a sudden you have to make a decision that can impact the race.”

Stearns notes that Gascón has some positives going for him.
“He has fairly well-known name recognition, he had good grades, mostly, from the mainstream press for the work he has done as police chief, and it sounds like he is a pretty good manager and administrator.”

On the downside, there’s his statement that he’s “not philosophically opposed to the death penalty,” and the latest shocker that he’s been a longtime Republican.

And then there are the vagaries of running for elected office under San Francisco's instant run-off voting (IRV) system.
“He could end up like Don Perata,” Stearns said, referring to Perata’s recent loss to Jean Quan in the race for Oakland mayor. “He could have the most money, the most endorsements and even the most votes, but no second and third place votes, and therefore he loses. But that depends on who else is going to run against him.”

Calls to David Onek, who filed in the D.A.’s race last summer and has already raised over $130,000 and collected a ton of endorsements, went unreturned, but if he gets back, I’ll be sure to post his comments here.

And as Henderson previously stated, he doesn’t plan to make any decisions until he has a substantive conversation with Gascón.

“Paul is pretty anti-death penalty, but like Gascón he came out in favor of sit-lie,” Stearns said, noting that Gascón may not feel he has to actively campaign to win in November.

“It’s a shock to the system what you have to go through to campaign in this city, especially if you believe in authority and hierarchy, and all of a sudden you have to go to every Democratic Club in town and listen to everyone’s questions and comments. But he sounds pretty serious about running, and I certainly believe that every election is competitive, so it remains to be seen what kind of candidate Gascón is and the deals he makes”.


A Republican! Run for your life!


And Mesa AZ is bigger than St Louis, by the way.

Posted by Scott on Jan. 14, 2011 @ 1:26 pm

The Examiner already had this story in this morning's edition.

Posted by The Commish on Jan. 14, 2011 @ 1:41 pm

Between this, and the revelation in the other article you had no idea what Ed lee and his family looked like - I am pretty sure the end is near.
Shocking. Just shocking news.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 14, 2011 @ 1:45 pm

A pro-death penalty Republican for DA who have lived in the City for 18 months is not down with medicinal cannabis?

Yeah, right.


Posted by marcos on Jan. 14, 2011 @ 1:52 pm

Gascon is beatable, but he's going to have colossal resources marshalled on his behalf. He's totally out of touch with San Francisco values, but I wouldn't write him off so easily.

Posted by Greg on Jan. 14, 2011 @ 3:06 pm

and I cant stand most of the "values" espoused by "progressive" san franciscans.
Most progressive place on earth without any actual progress -ever

Posted by Guest on Jan. 14, 2011 @ 3:21 pm

He is beatable, but it will take a candidate and a campaign. It will be particularly fun, reminiscent of Prop H '03, actually!


Posted by marcos on Jan. 14, 2011 @ 3:27 pm

I love it when people bring up SF values. Look at the last couple of elections, we voted for Sit And Lie, we voted for a new MUNI contract. We pretty much voted against SF Guardian picks and DCCC picks. So I would think Gascon is very much in touch with SF values.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 14, 2011 @ 3:34 pm

that they represent the values of a city of 3/4 a million people, especially when they lose at the ballot box so often on so many varied things.

You mention that there will be a lot of resources on his behalf, and he doesn't represent SF values?

Posted by matlock on Jan. 14, 2011 @ 6:22 pm

You guys have shown how out of touch with City Hall you are. So rather than try and report on gossip, may be you should sit back and report on what you observe. The SF Guardian may then become a little more credible.

Posted by Chris Pratt on Jan. 14, 2011 @ 2:20 pm

So our local progressive sect now wants to have a rule that no one can hold office in SF who is, or has been, a Republican. And their second priority is to abolish the pledge of allegiance at supes' meetings.

And then they wonder why thoughtful voters are less and less inclined to take them seriously in dealing with the city's problems.

A pack of lemmings is less suicidal than this crew.

Posted by Arthur Evans on Jan. 14, 2011 @ 2:35 pm

Good piece/good detail...His switching to Dem per Examiner article today - claiming he voted for Obama, Clinton etc. - is just funny.

Posted by Flowers on Jan. 14, 2011 @ 2:40 pm

The last DA was as left-wing as you could wish for. Except that her record of successfully prosecuting serious crimes was abysmal. Still, that doesn't matter as long as she was all for civil rights, right?

I have got this wild and crazy idea. Let's have a DA who can put the bad guys away.

Posted by Rick on Jan. 14, 2011 @ 2:40 pm

And many Cubans of his age were pretty much automatic Republicans. That's changing with the new generation of Cuban-Americans.

Anyway. I haven't voted for a Republican in a long time. And this is a one-party town which, as a Democrat, I don't mind. But Gascon will have some explaining to do about why he was a Republican and how his views have changed since then if he wants to win in November. City offices are non-partisan but once word gets out that he used to be a Republican he's going to have some problems.

Sit/Lie is now law and the DA, whomever that ends up being, will be required to support it.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Jan. 14, 2011 @ 2:55 pm


Winston Churchill changed parties about umpteen times and when he was challenged for it, he dryly replied: "To be perfect is to have changed many times.".

I myself have changed parties seven times over the past decade. Mostly in an attempt to get laid.

go gigantes!


Posted by Guest h. brown on Jan. 14, 2011 @ 3:01 pm

Like banksters who defraud people of their savings, greedy landlords, corrupt politicians, cops who kill and brutalize with impunity, sweatshop owners, developers who violate pollution control laws... somehow I don't think Gascon is the man to put those people away.

But those aren't the "bad guys" you were referring to, were you?

Poor people sleeping in the streets and potheads, on the other hand -that, he should be able to handle.

Posted by Greg on Jan. 14, 2011 @ 3:03 pm

I think my post makes it clear that Gascón's Republican past is not necessarily the end of his chances in the D.A.'s race. But this is the second time that former mayor Newsom made a seemingly inexplicable appointment of a Republican-minded official to a criminal justice post. The first time was his decision to install Kevin Ryan as his criminal justice director, even though Ryan was the only U.S. Attorney fired for cause by the Bush administration in the wake of its disgraceful attempt to fire and appoint US Attorneys along strictly partisan lines.

Posted by sarah on Jan. 14, 2011 @ 3:22 pm

being a Republican is like being the Anti-Christ.

The DA's sole job is to put away the bad guys. Essentially it's a technical jon, not a political job.

Should we elect our fire chief? Our police chief?

Posted by Tom on Jan. 14, 2011 @ 5:54 pm

A little late to be complaining about experience in relation to party affiliation.

When the only qualification for office is ideology around these things, it's a little late in the game to find some sense of righteousness here from the SF "values" crowd.

Posted by matlock on Jan. 14, 2011 @ 6:01 pm

The people of San Francisco backed Gerardo Sandoval for judge. Myself included, because he represents San Francisco values and his Republican opponent did not. We desperately need to break up the out-of-touch conservative clique that runs the criminal justice system in San Francisco, and little by little we're doing it. Gascon is a tremendous step backwards, but we'll fight him. It won't be easy, because like I said there will be immense resources invested in him (read M-O-N-E-Y matlock, provided by a few extremely powerful elites). But like marc said, it can be done.

Oh, and as an aside, what's with all the references to "bad guys?" What is this, the wild west? I'm having George W. Bush flashbacks... "bring it on," "dead or alive"... enough already.

Posted by Greg on Jan. 14, 2011 @ 11:06 pm

Another Pat Robertson progressive claiming to speak for a vast group of people, who have no interest in your ravings.

Sandoval's qualification is being a SF progressive, thats it. Now you lemmings are complaining that he isn't qualified.

After reading your entitled ravings about parking tickets that were unfair because of your politics and your insistence on claiming the citizens of SF even when you constantly lose city wide votes, I have gained a greater understanding of your comical status.

Why do you have to claim SF values? They are not really values but naked opportunism passed off some sort of moral stance.

have a nice Saturday Jerry Fallwell.

Posted by matlock on Jan. 15, 2011 @ 3:01 am

Odd that the guy couldn't see it the first time. There is *no difference* between Team Palin claiming to be the authority on true American values, and Team Greg claiming to be the authority on true San Francisco values. What an obnoxious, entitled position to take.

Posted by Sambo on Jan. 15, 2011 @ 9:20 am

He has been given little authority on the bench so far as I think he is viewed as a little simple.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 15, 2011 @ 11:08 am

In the style of religious sects, our local progressive sect acts on the basis of ideological conformity. Anyone who doesn't agree 100% with the dogmas is regarded as deficient in character or life and becomes the target of personal attacks.

There's a better approach to both politics and life. Identify practical projects that would improve things, and work together with people of diverse backgrounds in a constructive way in order to implement them.

The latter approach requires an openness to diversity, a respect for practicality, and good social skills.

The former approach attracts the opposite - hatchet-wielding ideologues on the look-out for deviations from ideological conformity. This approach tends to be self-isolating in the long run, as recent political events in SF have amply demonstrated.

Posted by Arthur Evans on Jan. 14, 2011 @ 6:21 pm

Technical or not, the D.A.'s job is based in large part on knowing how to evaluate available resources and prosecute cases, effectively. Traditionally, police departments tend to complain that D.A.'s don't prosecute enough cases, or only prosecute when a win in court is assured. And, traditionally, D.A.s tend to complain that the police don't understand what it takes to win in court, and that prosecuting unwinnable cases is a waste of limited tax dollars.

So, it will be interesting to see how Gascon navigates these choppy waters, as the sharks circle on all sides. And how it turns out for him in November.  I don't see Gascon's Republican past as evidence that he is the Anti-Christ. But it's a necessary disclosure now that he plans to run for elected office in San Francisco.

Posted by sarah on Jan. 14, 2011 @ 6:26 pm

The problem with this analysis, Sarah, is that the SFPD has always said that the DA would not prosecute what they bring forward. When asked to provide a pile of cases that the DA has not moved on, the SFPD never seems to be able to do that.

The danger here is that both entities collude to put forth the illusion of cooperation, but to keep the gravy train going, for the commuter cop force to continue to suck down tax dollars for not doing their job, and for the DA to cover for that. This all works until the music stops, there aren't enough chairs, and the recriminations start.

If anyone thinks that the SFPD, through their own actions, contributed to the decline in violent crime, then I've got some platted land to sell you in the 100 block of 15th Street.


Posted by marcos on Jan. 15, 2011 @ 7:58 am

A major shift has occurred in the political dynamic at City Hall. Our local progressive sect, which for so long has been smug and arrogant, has gotten a big comeuppance.

Fatwas from the Ayatollah Brugmann no longer count for anything. The Six Guys Club is now the Three Guys Club.

Chris Daly has gone into exile and will devote all his energy to the true love of his life, alcohol. Tommi Avicolli Mecca and his merry crew have nothing left to offer but "mantras" and "confabs."

Meanwhile the liberals and the moderates are surging ahead. They are focusing the city on practical projects of reform and outmaneuvering the hatchet-wielding ideologues like Marc Salomon.

It will be very easy for George Gascon to position himself at the head of the parade of liberals and moderates, while our local progressive sect continues to shoot itself in the foot and feel self-righteous about it.

For the moment, the progressives' Mouth in Chief is David Campos. He's a tunnel-vision ideologue with a narrow base. He will never be able to rally the city to a vision that is larger than Gascon's.

Unless the sect can come up with a credible alternative to Gascon soon, he could easily become mayor. So who will they put up as their champion this time? Quintin Mecke?

Their brightest star is Jeff Adachi. However, the axe-swinging ideologues, led by Marc Salomon, turned on him when he became an advocate for pension reform.

This sect has brought down upon itself its own doom.

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Posted by marcos on Jan. 15, 2011 @ 11:55 am

SF progressives are no longer capable of presenting sustained, rational arguments in defense of their dogmas and behavior.

How did this happen?

Posted by Arthur Evans on Jan. 15, 2011 @ 12:23 pm

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Posted by marcos on Jan. 15, 2011 @ 12:38 pm

"er... Gascon's from out of town...not like Chris Daly or Ross Mirkarimi or David Campos... well, he isn't qualified for the job like Sandoval who we progressives backed, we progressives would prefer a black or a Lati.. well, he might be a republican like those that voted for the civil rights act 1964 unlike a lot of democrats... he's a cop although Hennessy is cool, he doesn't represent San Francisco values, something we made and change to fit our mood and work to our advantage"

I hope he runs for election to see what the "progressive" fluidity comes up with.

Posted by matlock on Jan. 15, 2011 @ 1:38 pm

If our local progressive sect presented a practical, inspiring vision to the voters, conveyed by a candidate with an appealing professional record, they could run a credible campaign against George Gascon, whether for D.A. or mayor.

However, the sect is in disarray. It has no coherent message that can counter the practical-reform platforms of the liberals and moderates. It has no credible standard-bearer. And it remains in denial about these deficiencies and snears at anyone who points them out.

Worst of all, David Campos appears to have emerged as the sect's Mouth in Charge, succeeding Chris Daly in that role. Granted, Campos plays well in his own district and with the Milk Clubbers. Also, he's not foul-mouthed, like Daly.

However, Campos is a tunnel-vision ideologue with a narrow base. These flaws will prevent him from connecting well with a city-wide electorate.

It's too bad that Marc Salomon and other ideologues turned the sect against Jeff Adachi. He is the one person with sufficient intelligence and flare who could re-invent SF progressivism and make it into a major player again.

But as it is, they now have to settle for Campos. He will never outgrow his ideological narrowness.

Posted by Arthur Evans on Jan. 15, 2011 @ 3:08 pm

Good commentary AE. Very true about Adachi - he is a giant relative the miniscule Campos. He is the only progressive in my mind who could have won a City-wide election before vilification and is not charisma-challenged like the rest of the progressive flank. He is a REAL advocate of the poor and the only progresssive who has any idea how to address the City's long-term budget disaster...

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Posted by marcos on Jan. 15, 2011 @ 4:13 pm

You are right, Flowers, when you say:

"Very true about Adachi - he is a giant relative the miniscule Campos."

Marc Salomon was misguided to launch a vicious, character-assassinating attack on Jeff Adachi because Adachi dared question some of Salomon's dogmas.

SF progressivism, as a practical political force, will suffer from Salomon's folly for years to come.

But that's Marc Salomon for you. Ideology provides him with an excuse to be vicious to others and then feel self-righteous about it.

The Middle Ages had a phrase for this sort of behavior: "odium theologicum" ("theological rancor"). It comes to the surface whenever sect-think sets the tone for public discourse.

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Posted by marcos on Jan. 15, 2011 @ 10:31 pm

Yep, that's the rumor reported in today's Chron.

My guess is that Jim Hammer is none too happy to hear this new.

History will repeat itself. Gonzalez will end up doing to the progressives in the D.A. race in 2011 what he did to them in the mayoral race of 2003.

The progressives divided will always be defeated!

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Posted by marcos on Jan. 16, 2011 @ 11:18 am

In the 2003 mayoral race, Matt Gonzales delayed, hemmed and hawed, wrote some poetry, painted some paintings, and then jumped into the race at the last minute with no campaign strategy.

The result was to cut Tom Ammiano off at the knees. Gonzalez ended up playing Eve Harrington to Ammiano's Margot Channing, as in the flick "All About Eve."

It seems that Gonzalez is now about to lay the same script on Jim Hammer.

Sometimes even those who know the past are doomed to repeat it.

Posted by Arthur Evans on Jan. 16, 2011 @ 11:48 am

What's it like to be so obsessed with a group of people, and yet never be one of them?
You obviously view them as important enough to fill your life speculating about them and craving attention from them, but you have never been one of them and never will be.
Here you are pontificating about "the Matt Gonzales Pattern" like it's some sort of break through discovery or notion, and the article is about George Gascon.
You've been grinding away at it for three days, and that's just this one article.
It comes off as pathetic and a little disturbing.
Watching a man energetically claw the last bits of his own dignity to dried shreds, all the while reeking with self satisfaction at the thought of how intelligent and insightful he must appear to those around him.

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Posted by marcos on Jan. 17, 2011 @ 8:32 am

Hey Marc,
I noticed that when you post your babble responses to AE, that you dont sign your name to them - why is that?

Posted by Guest on Jan. 17, 2011 @ 8:46 am

Because I am not writing them, artificial intelligence that I wrote is.

No separation anxiety here, I'm glad to see my software progeny taking on a life of its own to the extent that it would be disrespectful for me to claim ownership over the creation of another.

I don't read Arthur's postings, just quickly copy and paste them into the Arthur Evans gibberish generator's input buffer for processing.

Like I said, Arthur needs to be responded to but only at the knee jerk gibberish level of his posts with a similar level of thoughtfulness, hence the automatic gibberish generator.


Posted by marcos on Jan. 17, 2011 @ 9:09 am

What is the comment policy on this site? Is using a bot to post gibberish a violation of this policy?
At minimum it is spam. I'm not sure why this is tolerated - is it because its from Marc Salomon?

Posted by Guest on Jan. 18, 2011 @ 10:03 am

it just started happening, so I'm only noticing it now. You'll find a link to the comment policy posted at the bottom of every page. I'll try to zap them when I see them. And no, we don't give any of our commenters preferential treatment.

Posted by marke on Jan. 18, 2011 @ 10:31 am

Here's the thing -the bot makes as much sense as the human it's responding to. Plus the bot is funny, while the individual is a tiresome troll. If you're not going to zap trolls, then I don't think you should zap bots either. That would be discriminating against artificial intelligence, which has clearly surpassed that of some humans, and has the added feature of a sense of humor that certain humans lack.

Posted by Greg on Jan. 18, 2011 @ 11:07 am

Sounds like all of his existing posts get to stay. I appreciate the statement that no commenter gets preferential treatment - but the simple fact that you're keeping six posts from Marc Salomon that are total gibberish speaks to some serious cognitive dissonance. I mean, he admits right here that he is using a bot to post - what more is needed?

Posted by Guest on Jan. 18, 2011 @ 11:06 am

Even better, he's been doing it all over different threads on this site in response to Arthur A.

Not really following why this is ok...

Posted by Guest on Jan. 18, 2011 @ 12:23 pm

this is art, brother.

Posted by marcos on Jan. 18, 2011 @ 12:44 pm

The postings are not automated, in that sense of the term bot.

The postings are machine generated, based on the post being replied to and other tweaked variables.

Human intervention is required to copy the source crap into the engine's input buffer and to copy the produced reply into the comment form.


Posted by marcos on Jan. 18, 2011 @ 2:52 pm