US primaries: a setback for reform-minded Democrats?

California voters took advantage of the primaries held on Tuesday to impeach the very progressive San Francisco prosecutor and put at the head of the race for mayor of Los Angeles an ex-Republican billionaire who wants more police officers and fewer homeless people.

US primaries: a setback for reform-minded Democrats?

California voters took advantage of the primaries held on Tuesday to impeach the very progressive San Francisco prosecutor and put at the head of the race for mayor of Los Angeles an ex-Republican billionaire who wants more police officers and fewer homeless people.

• Read also: Progressive and contested, the San Francisco prosecutor threatened with an impeachment vote

Is this the harbinger of a major and generalized reversal during the mid-term elections next November?

In any case, many believe that the message sent by voters in two of the most left-wing cities in the United States is clear: they want their leaders to quickly put an end to the rise in crime and generally demand more security in their cities. everyday life.

If even California, the stronghold of Joe Biden's Democratic Party, is tired of overly reformist policies, one could conclude that the rest of the country, which is more conservative overall, won't want it either.

For James Hohmann, editorial writer for the Washington Post, the dismissal of San Francisco prosecutor Chesa Boudin, at the polls on Tuesday evening, “is a turning point”. “This is not just about the rejection of a local prosecutor. It is the repudiation of a lax approach, which has failed and made so many of our cities less safe,” he wrote.

The good score achieved in the municipal primary in Los Angeles by the wealthy real estate developer Rick Caruso is also seen by some as a refusal to let go.

Republican defector running under the Democratic label, portrayed by his opponents as a Californian clone of Donald Trump, Rick Caruso injected more than 40 million dollars into his campaign, largely from his own funds. He advances with two big promises: to reduce crime by recruiting 1,500 additional police officers and to dismantle the camps for the homeless that litter the city.

On Wednesday, he had won 42% of the votes counted, against 37% for his rival Karen Bass, elected from the Democratic Party.

Ms. Bass, who is black and hopes to become the first female mayor of Los Angeles, has spent twelve times less than Rick Caruso, whom she will therefore face in a duel in November.

Biden acknowledged receipt

These results seem to confirm a trend that already began at the end of 2021 with the election as mayor of New York of Éric Adams. A former police officer, he also focused on the fight against crime and the issue of the homeless.

The Democratic Party and President Joe Biden acknowledged receipt on Wednesday. “Voters sent a clear message last night. Both parties need to step up and do something about gun crime and violence,” Biden told reporters.

He urged states and municipalities to use “billions of dollars” in federal grants “to hire officers and reform police departments.”

A clear change in tone compared to calls to cut police budgets – to better fund social programs – which had multiplied after the death of George Floyd, suffocated by a white police officer during his arrest.

A rebalancing to be nuanced

Beyond the impeachment of Chesa Boudin and the performance of Rick Caruso, however, there is no indication that California has suddenly become allergic to progressive politics.

Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva, who has recently mocked progressives and denounced the “woke left,” has had a dismal primary score that could cost him re-election.

The Attorney General of California, the very Democratic Rob Bonta, is on his side very well for a new mandate when he has put forward his desire to reform the criminal justice, just like Chesa Boudin.

The defeat of the San Francisco prosecutor is not synonymous with defeat for the reformers as a whole. His highly contested personality played against him as much as his politics: son of far-left activists convicted of killing two police officers during a robbery in 1981, he was a translator for populist Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez before becoming a lawyer.

For the Democratic consultant John Whitehurst, it is rather a rebalancing and it is necessary to qualify the interpretation of these primaries.

Voters are "saying, we don't want to cut the police budget, but we want police officers who don't beat people up and don't violate basic rights," he told the San Francisco Chronicle.

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