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Criminal Justice Policy Key Issue In Race for California Attorney General

The most contentious California election in 2022 is likely to be the race for attorney general, where voters will choose in June between a liberal incumbent who was appointed to the job last year, three unheralded challengers and a gay career prosecutor whose campaign could hinge on the public’s new fears about crime, reports the Los Angeles Times. For Attorney General Rob Bonta, the timing of his first statewide campaign could be challenging. The race coincides with increased scrutiny of criminal justice reform efforts, a juxtaposition that opponents see as an opportunity to pin the blame for rising crime on Democrats. They believe that new leadership at the California Department of Justice will strengthen law and order and bring political balance back to Sacramento.

Gov. Gavin Newsom chose Bonta last year to be first Filipino American to serve as state attorney general after then-Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra was appointed U.S. Health and Human Services secretary. Before his appointment, Bonta spent eight years in the state Assembly focused on efforts to modify the criminal justice system to favor rehabilitation over long incarceration. He co-wrote a law, later overturned by voters, that aimed to end cash bail and another that banned for-profit prisons. In 2020, he supported a law that requires the state to investigate some officer-involved killings, a program he now oversees as attorney general. Bonta faces the challenge of being “the incumbent, but not the incumbent who was elected,” said Wesley Hussey, a Sacramento State political science professor, possibly forcing the Democrat to spend his first statewide campaign defending his record in the Legislature.


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