Criminal Justice System On Trial in March 3 Ballot

     Whether you think the criminal justice system is broken, or you believe it’s doing what it was designed to do by targeting poor people and people of color, that system is on the March 3 primary election ballot in many ways. The presidential primary, along partisan lines, offers stark choices among candidates and visions.

The other races in CA are all essentially non-partisan — anyone can vote for any candidate on the ballot for each position, and if nobody gets 50%+1, the top two regardless of party face off in the general election in November. So there are three candidates for District Attorney, in what is described as one of the most important local elections in the country.

The L.A. DA oversees the largest prosecutorial staff in the US, has sent more people to death row than any other county, and sends people into the largest jail system in the world. The incumbent, Jackie Lacey, has been the target of a #JackieLaceyMustGo campaign led by Black Lives Matter for several years, and is finally facing serious electoral opposition, with two reform-oriented candidates, public defender Rachel Rossi, and ex-LAPD assistant chief and ex-SF DA George Gascon running to unseat her.

      A couple of dozen Assistant DAs under Lacey are also on the ballot, running for judgeships. And embattled county sheriff Alex Villanueva is confronted by a ballot measure initiated by Justice LA – the Yes on R (Reform LA Jails) initiative, to give the Civilian Oversight Commission permanent subpoena power to investigate charges against deputies, and a mandate to develop alternatives to incarceration and shift funding to services like housing, rehabilitation, jobs and community peace-makers.

Numerous City Council seats are up for grabs, with movement candidates in a number of districts advocating for criminal justice radical reforms and for action now to decriminalize unhoused people and provide permanent supportive housing. Cliff Smith who sought to run in District 8 against an incumbent, was pushing for a community control over the police charter amendment, but he was denied  ballot status after many of the signatures on his nominating petitions were invalidated.

Channing Martinez (pictured above) of the Labor Community Strategy and their “Fight for the Soul of the Cities,” is running in District 10, pushing for an end to gentrification and displacement in the Crenshaw district, free public transit and an end to police attacks on Black transit riders.

Several seats on the Board of Supervisors are up for grabs, including an open seat where Mark Ridley-Thomas has termed out. Ridley-Thomas and City Council District 10 member Herb Wesson are trying to swap jobs, but both face opposition from multiple candidates, including Grace Yoo and Aura Vazquez running in council district 10, along with Channing Martinez, against Ridley-Thomas to replace Wesson, and State Sen. Holly Mitchell and former council member Jan Perry against Wesson to replace Ridley-Thomas on the BOS. Voting is taking place daily at any of the new voting centers all around the County, with same-day registration still open (for a provisional ballot) through “Super Tuesday,” March 3, when about 1/3 of the delegates in the Democratic Party presidential nomination process will also be decided in races in CA, TX and about a dozen other states around the country.

You can listen to coverage of the local and national returns on KPFK 90.7 FM free speech Pacifica community radio.

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