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San Francisco district attorney ousted, drawing eyes to Austin's José Garza

(José Garza/SFGovTV)

Chesa Boudin and José Garza share the rare handle of “progressive prosecutor”—Boudin in San Francisco and Garza in Austin.

Former public defender Boudin was voted out by nearly 60% of voters on Tuesday, after being elected by a slim margin in 2019 with a platform of police reform, criminal justice reform and addressing racial inequality. His opponents argue his policies threaten public safety.

As Travis County District Attorney Garza remains in office, halfway through his four-year term, he is so far silent on Boudin’s landslide defeat. Repeated calls to the D.A. by Austonia for his comment were not returned as of publication.

Boudin’s stances closely reflect fellow progressive Garza’s platform

Garza and Boudin have a similar track record: Both have received endorsements from progressive Sen. Bernie Sanders, D-VT; serve progressive cities; believe in holding law enforcement accountable and have been criticized for not being tough enough on criminals.

During his tenure, Boudin eliminated cash bail, reduced the prison population and brought nine criminal conduct cases against officers for misconduct.

Likewise, Garza obtained indictments of five Austin police officers, two sheriff’s deputies, an assistant county attorney and a sheriff on charges including tampering with evidence and murder. Distrust between Garza and Austin police is at a high level.

But there are key differences

San Francisco is facing three major types of crime: Murders, burglaries and motor vehicle thefts have increased significantly since 2019. While a report by KXAN last October showed Austin shared a “sizable jump” in homicides in the past 18-24 months, the homicide rate remains at 7.69 per 100,000, which is lower than both Dallas and San Antonio.

San Francisco’s housing crisis doesn’t seem to be improving and neither does public perception of the expanding homeless population, but since Austin reinstated the camping ban in May 2021, the housing crisis has leveled off locally.

Plus, while Boudin narrowly scooted by in his election, Garza topped opponent Margaret Moore by 3%, followed by 68% in the runoffs and 70% of the votes in the general election in 2020.

What the opposition is saying

The Austin Police Association took notice of the San Francisco election, and the similarities that Boudin and Garza have shared. APA president Ken Casaday told Austonia the results were not surprising to him.

“San Francisco citizens became tired of the lack of prosecution of cases,” Casaday said. “The APA plans on allowing the citizens of Austin to make the decision on how to handle our D.A. After all, he was voted in by the citizens just like D.A. Boudin was two years ago.”

Casaday continued, “D.A. Garza is no different than Mr. Boudin. They were funded by the same people to do what they’ve done. In fact, Mr. Garza has never prosecuted a case in his life which makes it tough to understand the complexities of prosecuting cases.”

Austonia reached out to the office of congressional candidate Greg Casar and Judge Andy Brown, as well as organizations that have endorsed Garza, including Austin DSA, Black Austin Democrats and the Austin Justice Coalition but was not able to hear back for comment at the time of publication.


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