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Mayor Breed under fire for ‘cronyism’ in hurried district attorney appointment

Less than 24 hours after San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón announced his resignation Thursday, Mayor London Breed appointed former police commissioner and current district attorney candidate Suzy Loftus to take over Gascon’s duties until January 2020. Of the four candidates, Breed has publicly endorsed Loftus and the appointment is being widely criticized as an unfair advantage in the upcoming election.

Breed was supposed to make the announcement at Portsmouth Square in Chinatown Thursday afternoon but was met with a group of protesters who opposed her decision to tap Loftus for the job. The press conference was moved to the Far East Café on Grant Street.

Jerold Chinn/SFBay Protesters demonstrated at Portsmouth Square in Chinatown in San Francisco, Calif., on Friday, October 4, 2019, to condemn Mayor London Breed’s decision to pick district attorney candidate Suzy Loftus to replace outgoing District George Gascón.

Protesters objected to the interim Loftus appointment so close to the November election. Instead, they would prefer Breed select someone not running for the office so as to give the other candidates a fair fight.

Maria Cristina Gutierrez, who protested outside the Far East Café, said:

“By appointing her, they have given her the privilege to get elected over the other ones.”

Other candidates running for district attorney include Chesa Boudin, Leif Dautch and Nancy Tung.

Inside the Far East Café, Breed said Loftus was the most qualified person to fill the important position.

Loftus, a San Francisco native, worked as a prosecutor in the District Attorney’s Office from 2005 to 2010. In 2012, she was appointed to The City’s police commission where she served as president. She now serves as legal counsel for San Francisco Sheriff Vicki Hennessy.

The mayor was adamant that she will not leave the District Attorney’s Office without someone qualified at the helm.

Breed said:

“There is no way I am going to leave this office vacant for the next three months. When you have someone who is qualified, when you have someone who worked for years in the District Attorney’s Office and knows many of the staff who work there and knows what to do, whether she’s in there for three months or four years or four days.”

Jerold Chinn/SFBay Former president of the San Francisco Police Commission and candidate for district attorney Suzy Loftus, spoke with a crowd of supporters following her interim appointment to replace District Attorney George Gascon in Chinatown in San Francisco, Calif., on Friday, October 4, 2019.

Breed told reporters:

“We don’t just leave an office open just because we have an election coming up, especially one of the most important offices in our city.”

Loftus, with her mother, two daughters and husband, told a crowd of supporters:

“For anyone whose trust I have yet to earn, I work every day to earn your trust. I will work on safety that is not predicated on zip codes. I will work every day to build a justice system that is not for the privileged few but that works for all of us.”

Tung, currently a deputy district attorney in Alameda County and a San Francisco district attorney candidate, said in a statement: 

“Mayor London Breed appointing her endorsed candidate for District Attorney, just days before people start voting, reeks of cronyism and political backroom deals. This is a blatant move to inappropriately influence this critically important election, and yet another example of the District Attorney’s Office being politicized and used for personal favoritism. Enough is enough.”

Tung continued with criticism of Loftus, calling her acceptance of the job “opportunistic.” 

Jerold Chinn/SFBay Protesters demonstrated outside of the Far East Cafe in San Francisco, Calif., on Friday, October 4, 2019, as Mayor London Breed picked Suzy Loftus to replace outgoing District George Gascón.

Tony Montoya, president of the San Francisco Police Officer’s Association, who was not exactly sad to see Gascón resign, said in a statement following Breed’s appointment:

“George Gascon abandoning his sworn duty to climb the next rung of the political ladder is consistent with his character putting his raw ambition before the public’s interest. We respect Mayor Breed’s authority to appoint a district attorney, and we are thankful it is not the criminal and domestic-terrorist apologist who is running to replace Gascon.”

Gascón said he will resign by Oct. 18 and may explore a run for district attorney in Los Angeles.

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