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Crime Emerges As Key Issue In California Elections

An attack ad roasting California Attorney General Rob Bonta as an “anticop politician” serves as a flashing neon sign warning Democrats what to expect in this year's state election season. “How can someone who cares more about criminals’ rights than victims’ rights, and is routinely at odds with law enforcement, serve as our state’s top cop?” the ad says. “It’s time for a change.” The criticism comes from an independent political committee backing attorney general candidate Anne Marie Schubert, the Republican-turned-independent Sacramento County District Attorney. The ad takes a swipe at Gov. Gavin Newsom, who faces a similar barrage from the right in his run for reelection for promising to close two prisons, imposing a moratorium on the death penalty and appointing Bonta as the state’s top cop, reports the Los Angeles Times.

After a decade near the back burner of voter concerns, fear over crime has risen to the fore as Republicans seize on the issue to skewer Democrats from the state Capitol to the White House. Republicans are demanding an end to liberal policies that replaced some of the tough-on-crime laws of the 1980s and 1990s under GOP Govs. George Deukmejian and Pete Wilson. Two-thirds of registered voters in California believe crime has risen in their neighborhoods, found a UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies poll. Just over half of voters said Newsom is doing a poor job on crime and public safety, up 16 percentage points from 2020. Those perceptions have been driven by television news coverage of coordinated “smash and grab” thefts. Auto burglaries and stolen cars are also driving increases in crime in major cities. Republican consultant David Gilliard said crime is an issue that California Democrats “own” after convincing voters to expand options for the early release of tens of thousands of incarcerated people and reduce punishment for many convicted of theft and other nonviolent offenses. Proposition 47, the 2014 voter-approved ballot measure Newsom supported, reclassified some felony drug and theft offenses as misdemeanors and raised from $400 to $950 the amount for which theft can be prosecuted as a felony. Two years later, voters approved Proposition 57, a parole overhaul measure that increased good-behavior credits, allowing prisoners to be released earlier.


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