A progressive movement to install liberal activists in district attorney’s offices across the country is beginning to backfire, with voters in some cities reconsidering their choices and Republicans in others organizing ahead of the next election .
Liberal billionaire George Soros has sunk millions of dollars over the past several years into boosting candidates that have advocated reforms such as ending cash bail, barring prosecutions of minors as adults, and declining to bring cases against a host of less serious, but frequently disruptive, violations of the law.
Some of the candidates he helped install have presided over severe increases in violence.
Soros invested more than $1.6 million into the 2017 campaign to elect Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner.
In Krasner’s first term, murders climbed to a historic level. Pennsylvania’s largest city broke its all-time murder record in 2021.
Shootings in Philadelphia spiked to their highest levels ever recorded last year. Despite scrutiny of the uptick in crime that occurred on his watch, Krasner was reelected last year.
In Los Angeles, District Attorney George Gascon received $4.7 million through a Soros-funded political action committee.
Soros invested a more modest amount, roughly $300,000 through a political action committee, in the 2016 race that made Kim Foxx the district attorney in Chicago. She was among the first progressive prosecutors whom Soros supported in what would become a nationwide movement.
By 2020, Soros had invested $2 million into a political action committee that boosted Foxx.
Soros also put money into a political action committee that boosted former San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin.
Boudin’s removal from office in June via a recall vote thrust the simmering tensions between some voters and their elected prosecutors into the national spotlight.
Much like the awakening regarding school board races, more Republicans have woken up to the reality that historically sleepy district attorney elections carry enormous consequences for the quality of life in cities.
A number of groups have begun to invest more in the infrastructure to advance candidates committed to enforcing the law.
One, organized by Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares, who was elected last year, has already begun backing candidates in key races.
The Protecting Americans Action Fund has put money behind Republican candidates for the top prosecutor jobs in Indianapolis and Fort Worth, Texas.
And there are already signs that the GOP has an opportunity to install law-and-order candidates in district attorney positions when it joins the fray.
Interest from deep-pocketed Republicans in the Little Rock, Arkansas, prosecutor’s race in May prevented a Soros-backed candidate from taking the job.
Alicia Walton, a public defender backed by more than $300,000 from a Soros political action committee, lost to Will Jones, who had the backing of a similar amount of money from groups set up by two wealthy Republican donors. One of them was Richard Uihlein, a major Republican donor nationally.
Karl Rove, former top political aide to President George W. Bush, said this week that Soros’s installation of so many progressive prosecutors had sparked a “conservative renaissance” of interest in district attorney elections.
Boudin’s recall shows that even Democratic voters have soured on the liberal criminal justice reforms that they found appealing before the crime wave of the past two years.
His colleague to the south may be next.
Los Angeles voters have already completed several of the steps necessary to recall Gascon.
County election officials announced on July 9 that the movement had produced a raw count of 715,833 signatures supporting his recall, and a random sample of the signatures found enough to be valid for a full review to proceed.
Facing enormous scrutiny and the threat of losing his job, Gascon has walked back several of his most controversial decrees.
Gascon earlier this year reversed a total ban on trying any juvenile, regardless of the severity of the crime, as an adult.
Gascon also walked back his cash bail changes, saying in May that “after listening to the community” his office would begin to allow defendants to be held on bail in certain cases.