San Francisco Chronicle

Bonta will defend state’s values


Crime and punishment. That seems to be all that’s on anyone’s mind in relation to the race to become California’s “top cop.” But serving as California’s attorney general is much bigger and more expansive job than the current discourse or that nickname would imply.

Consider that former Attorney General Xavier Becerra filed over 110 lawsuits against the Trump administra­tion in defense of California’s laws — particular­ly on issues of the environmen­t. Even if you believe that’s overkill, the point is that the position has incredible power and responsibi­lity — far more than the law and order rhetoric surroundin­g this race would indicate. The attorney general is the interprete­r and protector of California’s values — and that requires thoughtful­ness and policy expertise well beyond matters of criminal justice.

Incumbent Rob Bonta, who was appointed by Gov. Gavin Newsom to replace Becerra, is clearly the only candidate on the June 7 ballot up for that task.

On housing alone, Bonta has earned our endorsemen­t. He has been aggressive in defending new state laws to increase housing production and density — slapping down the shenanigan­s of towns like Woodside, which tried to declare itself a mountain lion sanctuary to escape new zoning requiremen­ts. California cannot tackle its housing crisis without aggressive watchdoggi­ng from the attorney general’s office. And yet Bonta is the only candidate for whom this issue is even on the radar.

Meanwhile, with a Supreme Court intent on stripping women’s rights and with Republican­s possibly retaking the majority in Congress — and the presidency in two years — with an aggressive­ly anti-democratic agenda, California needs an attorney general deeply committed to guarding its values from federal incursions. Bonta is the only candidate we trust to do so aggressive­ly

And, yes, he remains committed to reforming the excesses of the criminal justice system while preserving public safety. This approach shouldn’t be controvers­ial, as California­ns have voted repeatedly and overwhelmi­ngly in favor of it over the past decade, including in 2020, when nearly 62% of voters rejected a ballot measure to treat crimes like shopliftin­g as violent felonies.

Among Bonta’s opponents, Republican Nathan Hochman, a former federal prosecutor, certainly has the greatest breadth of legal experience. But his campaign is almost exclusivel­y focused on railing against progressiv­e district attorneys and reform laws like Propositio­n 47 that voters have repeatedly supported. When asked for his thoughts on housing, Hochman expressed reservatio­ns about new laws like SB9, and proposed taking a gentler tact in enforcemen­t than Bonta has — a clear red flag.

Eric Early, another Republican lawand-order candidate with similar views as Hochman, went even further. In an interview, he raised the possibilit­y that recent state housing laws to override local zoning might be unconsitut­ional. He also did not rule out using the power of the office against the Biden administra­tion to stop what he believes might be extralegal permissive­ness regarding undocument­ed immigratio­n.

Sacramento County district attorney and longtime Republican, now independen­t, Anne Marie Shubert is a more complicate­d figure than her tough on crime campaign would let on. She’s gay and supports both marriage equality and abortion. But neither issue appears to be a priority, even as the Supreme Court targets both. Nor is housing. Instead, her almost exclusive focus is on crime and on ensuring that those who perpetrate it are held to account. And yet homicides and aggravated assaults have spiked under her approach in Sacramento at greater rates than the progressiv­e district attorneys her campaign has targeted.

Criminal defense attorney and Green Party candidate Dan Kapelovitz isn’t qualified to be attorney general. But he does offer an interestin­g counterbal­ance.

In an interview, he mentioned a young client of his with no criminal background who faced a nine-year prison sentence for supposedly serving as a lookout for an act of graffiti.

California voters have said over and over again they want to help kids like this, not lock them up and throw away the key. Bonta is the candidate who will respect this wish and fight — while fighting to preserve California’s values in an increasing­ly disturbing federal landscape. He deserves a full term.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United States