Liberal prosecutor Chesa Boudin faces recall vote in liberal San Francisco

Voters in famously liberal San Francisco will decide Tuesday if the city's chief prosecutor is just a little bit too liberal even for them.

District Attorney Chesa Boudin faces a recall vote sparked by perceptions of rising crime and exploding homelessness that blight what was once one of the most livable cities in the United States.

Critics charge that it is his fault; that his refusal to seek the death penalty, his use of treatment -- not punishment -- for criminals with drug habits, and his attempt to reform the police have given criminals free rein.

The recall attempt mirrors a larger discontent in some American cities where liberal voters who have traditionally shunned the tough-on-crime rhetoric of the political right are calling for a crackdown.

In Los Angeles, a similarly minded district attorney is fending off a second attempt to fire him for his supposedly soft approach to prosecution.

And in Seattle, taxpayers are chafing at rocketing robberies and surging violent crime, at a time the number of law enforcement officers working the city has shrunk in the wake of campaigns to "Defund the Police".

Boudin, 41, who was elected in 2019, has a thoroughly progressive pedigree.

His parents were radicals in the Weather Underground militant leftist group, and were jailed for their part in an armed robbery that left two police officers dead.

He worked for a while as a translator for left-wing Venezuelan firebrand Hugo Chavez, and spent much of his career as a public defender.

His policies in office -- not prosecuting children as adults, aggressively prosecuting wrongdoing by police officers, and reducing the prison population -- are not radical by European standards, but stand out in the United States.

Statistics show overall crime has not increased during his time in office, though burglaries and car break-ins are up.

But a few well-publicized incidents -- smash-and-grab raids at swanky department stores, and vicious anti-Asian attacks -- have combined with the long shadow of pandemic frustration.

Boudin says the recall effort has been driven by right-wing businesspeople and by less-than-liberal police officers.

"This is a Republican- and police union-led playbook to undermine and attack progressive prosecutors who have been winning elections across the country," he told The Guardian.

"The playbook involves delegitimizing and fear-mongering and recalling. It's a tactic being used by folks who are increasingly unable to prevail in elections when they put forward their views about public safety and justice."

But the recall push has also garnered support closer to home, with many fellow Democrats lukewarm about Boudin, including Mayor London Breed, who is likely to appoint a moderate if the recall succeeds.

Tuesday's vote is one of a number of ballots taking place in the United States, most of them primaries that will decide who goes through to a run-off in November, when Americans will cast midterm votes for Congress and in a slew of local and state races.

Los Angeles is likely to narrow down a crowded field of mayoral candidates to two, including a former Republican promising to be tough on crime.

Democrats in solidly blue New Mexico vote on a new attorney general, and there are contests in New Jersey, Iowa, South Dakota and Montana.