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Rising Crime Didn't Sink Candidates Who Back Criminal Justice Reform

Despite predictions that rising violent crime would sink candidates backing criminal justice reforms, those candidates mostly survived Tuesday's elections, and reform-minded prosecutor and sheriff candidates even defeated incumbents in a few key races, reports

After the recall of progressive San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin, opponents of criminal justice reform were confident that voters' concerns over crime would translate into a national backlash, and polling seemed to back them up. In an ABC/Washington Post poll released in late September, 52 percent of respondents favored the Republican Party to handle crime, compared to 38 percent for Democrats.

A Greenberg Research survey asked voters what they feared most if Democrats win full control of the government; 56 percent chose "crime and homelessness out of control in cities and police coming under attack."

While rising crime created headwinds for candidates who supported criminal justice reform, the apocalyptic reaction never quite materialized.

Democratic New York Gov. Kathy Hochul survived a challenge by Republican Lee Zeldin, despite attacks linking her to the state's bail reforms and an endless stream of New York Post headlines depicting New York City as a gore-soaked hellscape.

Bail reform backlash did appear in Ohio and Alabama. Both states passed ballot initiatives restricting when defendants can be released on cash bail.

In Pennsylvania, Democratic U.S. Senate candidate John Fetterman won, despite a barrage of Republican attacks on his criminal justice record, such as serving on the state's Board of Pardons, opposing mandatory life without parole sentences, and supporting progressive Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner.

In Oregon, another state where Republicans were hoping crime, homelessness, and general dysfunction would propel them to the governor's seat for the first time since 1982, Democratic candidate Tina Kotek was narrowly leading her Republican opponent.

In Los Angeles, sheriff Alex Villanueva is trailing challenger Robert Luna by a significant margin. Villanueva has been embroiled in scandals and drama for much of his tenure, using his powers to retaliate against whistleblowers, the media,, other city officials, and the inspector general's office.

Voters showed the door to Massachusetts' longest-serving sheriff, Republican Tom Hodgson. Hodgson was described as the "Arpaio of the east," a reference to former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio, who was infamous for degrading conditions and constitutional abuses in his jail. Hodgson's jail has been dogged by suicides and allegations of medical neglect and unsanitary conditions.

In King County, Wa.,, Leesa Manion held a comfortable lead over Jim Ferrell in the race for county prosecutor. The Seattle Times reported that that, while both served as prosecutors in the office, Ferrell has run on a platform of rolling back many of the reforms of the previous county prosecutor:

Not all progressive prosecutor candidates were successful. Civil rights attorney Pamela Price narrowly lost her bid to become district attorney in California's Alameda County.


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A daily report co-sponsored by Arizona State University, Criminal Justice Journalists, and the National Criminal Justice Association

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