SF district attorney's race heats up

October 28, 2011 8:01:12 PM PDT
A recent Bay Citizen-USF Poll shows incumbent George Gascon leading his opponents in the election for district attorney in San Francisco. The field of candidates may be small, but they all have diverse stands so this should be a lively contest.

Former Police Chief Geoge Gascon was appointed district attorney in January by then-Mayor Gavin Newsom. Gascon succeeded Kamala Harris, who was elected to attorney general.

The incumbent is a lawyer and veteran police officer who was assistant chief to the Los Angeles Police Department. Gascon was an early proponent of the COMPSTAT crime tracking system, which has been credited with reducing crime.

Gascon believes his management skills make him the best candidate for the job.

"You're not hiring a trial attorney," Gascon said. "You're hiring the person who's going to run the organization. The experience here is understanding the criminal justice system: How do you deal with big issues? How do you deal with the personnel issues? How do you deal with the communities?"

Sharmin Bock is a deputy district attorney in Alameda County with two decades of experience as a prosecutor. Bock grew up in San Francisco and is a nationally-known expert in human trafficking cases.

Bock currently heads a special operations unit that handles DNA and cold cases. She believes her lengthy trial experience makes her most-qualified for the job.

"I'm the only one running for the prosecutor's job who is a prosecutor," said Bock, "so you're hiring a chef. I'm the only one doing the cooking right now."

Bill Fazio started as a San Francisco prosecutor who later became a prominent defense lawyer. Fazio entered the race at the last moment, filing his papers in August. This is Fazio's fourth run for the office: The last time was in 2003 when he was defeated by Harris.

Fazio says he has everything his opponents have and more.

"I have the administrative skills that George Gascon speaks about," Fazio said. "I ran a successful law practice for over 16 years. Ms. Bock talks about her experience in Alameda; I've been a prosecutor in San Francisco for over 20 years."

David Onek is a senior fellow at U.C. Berkeley's Center for Criminal Justice. Onek is a former San Francisco police commissioner and has worked extensively with community-based organizations trying to help youngsters stay out of trouble.

Onek says the criminal justice system is broken and he's the one to reform it.

"I'm the only candidate who not only has law enforcement experience, working on the San Francisco police commission and the mayor's Office of Criminal Justice, and working closely with law enforcement, but also have significant experience in the community," Onek said.

Onek's No. 1 priority as district attorney would be to focus on getting kids out of the criminal justice system -- all the other candidates say reducing violent crime would be their primary goal.

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