A last minute look at the 11 people who hope to unseat LA DA George Gascón

District Attorney George Gascón, and challengers during LA Magazine's Jan. 18, DA race debate, via WLA
Celeste Fremon
Written by Celeste Fremon

As we race toward the March 5, 2024, primary election, let’s take one more quick look at the eleven challengers, each of whom are hoping to somehow gather enough votes to make it into the November runoff with the goal of unseating Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascón who, since December 7, 2020, has led the nation’s largest prosecutor’s office.

Just to be clear, barring some sort of unforeseeable calamity, based on a variety of polls, name recognition, plus simple math, the runoff will be between Gascón and one of the eleven candidates listed below.

Out of these eleven, the three candidates who likely have the strongest chance of winding up on the ballot in November along with Gascón, are Jeff Chemerinsky, Nathan Hochman, and Jonathan Hatami. 

In discussing these top three, it helps to know that among the reasons they stand out as the strongest challengers is the fact that each of the three have raised a pile of campaign cash.

The list of eleven

Jeff Chemerinsky.   Chemerinsky most recently headed the violent and organized crime section of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles before leaving that post last year to enter this campaign. If his name sounds familiar, that’s likely because Chemerinsky is the son of Erwin Chemerinsky, the nationally-known and much beloved Constitutional law scholar who is presently the dean of UC Berkeley Law School. 

On his campaign site, Jeff Chemerinksy describes his intention, if elected, to “increase public safety,” and, at the same time, “promote a fair and equitable criminal justice system,” which includes, “criminal justice reform because mass incarceration does not work.”

Unlike many of the other challengers, Chemerinsky can claim at least some management experience, having overseen a team of attorneys and staff for the US Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California. 

Civil rights attorney Connie Rice, is supporting him, as are a bunch of former elected officials with very recognizable names.

 And. in addition to being informed and articulate about what he hopes to bring to the DA’s office, Chemerinsky is pretty much the only person out of the eleven challengers who doesn’t actively and extravagantly make things up about the man he is challenging.  

Nathan Hochman. A  conservative with an impressive resume, Hochman was nominated by President George W. Bush in 2007, to be the Assistant Attorney General for the U.S. Department of Justice’s Tax Division. In the years that followed, he served as a federal prosecutor, a federal defense attorney, and was head of the Los Angeles Ethics Commission. In 2022, Hochman ran and lost as the Republican candidate for California Attorney General.  (He now positions himself as independent.)

In general he’s a talented lawyer.  As a defense attorney, Hochman represented former LA County Sheriff Lee Baca, in Baca’s 2017 federal trials.  While Baca was convicted, it took two trials to do it, mostly due to Hochman’s impressive set of skills as a legal knife fighter.

Bottom line, although Hochman is likely too conservative to make it into the runoff, with the help of a string of right wing donors, he has raised more campaign cash than anybody else, a pile of which he’s been using on a well-produced campaign ad.  So it is unwise to count him out.  

Disappointingly, however, Hochman is one of the challengers that has pushed provably counterfactual narratives about Gascón, including telling the LA Times editorial board that the present DA “refuses to prosecute misdemeanors at all, and generally avoids prosecuting felonies.”  When “asked to show evidence,”  wrote the LA Times, “he couldn’t.”

(The Times, in case you’re unaware, has endorsed Gascón, and it’s an endorsement worth reading.)

Jonathan Hatami.  Hatami is a veteran prosecutor known for his skill in winning high profile cases having to do with physical and/or sexual abuse of children. During the first year of Gascón’s tenure as DA, Hatami also become known for relentlessly slamming the new District Attorney on X—the social media platform formerly known as Twitter— and on Fox News, where he made such statements as “Los Angeles is a ‘lawless society’ under DA George Gascón.”

More recently, however, Hatami’s criticisms are less of the flame throwing variety.  He has also humanized his campaign by talking about his own childhood experiences with abuse.  Perhaps, most important at the moment, of the pack of challengers, he is the third most successful at fundraising for the race, behind Hochman and Chemerinsky.

The next two in line when it comes to campaign cash, are Eric Siddall and John McKinney.

Eric Siddall,  A non-violent-crimes prosecutor, Eric Siddall, has received the endorsement of the Association of Deputy District Attorneys (ADDA), the union that has been filing lawsuits against Gascón, since December 30, 2020. Siddall, however, is sensible-sounding and articulate when on radio or TV interviews.  He also has specific ideas about how to run the DA’s office, many of which are not that different from those of Gascón, nevermind that Siddall was one of the DA’s earliest and most vociferous critics.

John McKinney,   McKinney has been a prosecutor in the Major Crimes Division of the DA’s office,  the gang unit, and other high intensity units. He led the successful prosecution of the man convicted of murdering the rapper Nipsey Hussle in 2019, among other high profile cases. He appears to have a strong sense of community, and  is clearly well liked by a list of officials and community leaders in various areas of Los Angeles County.  

Debra Archuleta Before she left the DA’s office to run for election as an LA Superior Court Judge in November 2016, Archuleta was a criminal prosecutor who handled “over 100 jury trials spanning homicide, rape, child abuse, and more.” 

Interestingly, when KBLA Talk Radio 1690, commissioned a poll of 500 Black/African American likely voters about who they favored for the DA’s race, after George Gascón, who had a 31 percent favorable rating, the next in line was Judge Archuleta, with 12 percent.

 (The poll, conducted by Evitarus, Public Opinion Research, was released earlier this month.)

Maria Ramirez.  A veteran prosecutor of 33 years, Maria Ramirez was raised in Boyle Heights where, she says, she saw first hand the damage that violent crime can do to families and communities, which led her to her career as a prosecutor.  Most recently she has become known for suing Gascón, accusing him of retaliating against her for pushing back on his policies. 

Craig Mitchell.  A prosecutor for a decade, then a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge for nearly 20 years, Judge Craig Mitchell is best known around LA for founding the Skid Row Running Club, which he established to help homeless people suffering from addiction, and other difficulties. With the running club, Mitchell does all he can to move those he meets on Skid Row into permanent housing and “long term sobriety.”  There’s no question that the Skid Row Running Club is a remarkable program that both changes, and saves lives. It just isn’t 100 percent clear why its founder decided to run for DA.

David S. Milton,  A former prosecutor, now a retired judge who presents himself as the “law and order” candidate, Milton has promised to seek tougher sentences and pursue the death penalty. He also rants a great deal about George Soros.

Lloyd “Bobcat,” Masson   A longtime prosecutor Bobcat presently specializes in cold cases, and trying homicides.  He also has some very nice merch for sale, for those in search of a Bobcat hoodie.

Dan Kapelovitz. A progressive criminal defense lawyer, Kapelowitz is endorsed by the Green Party of Los Angeles County, and the Peace and Freedom Party of LA County.  In his spare time. Kapelovitz has volunteered for the California Innocence Project, and the Prisoner Re-Entry Legal Clinic.  He continues to work on special circumstances murder cases for the Los Angeles County Public Defender.  And, like Bobcat, he is selling merch on his campaign website.

Okay, that’s it for today.  So, if you haven’t already, please vote.  

Then, once we know who has made it into November’s runoff, we’ll have lots more on George Gascón, the race to lead the nation’s largest district attorney’s office, and the LA DA’s office itself.

So stay tuned.


  • https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2024-02-27/scathing-county-watchdog-report-urges-disbanding-sheriffs-aggressive-risk-management-bureau

    The fun continues at the BANDIDO SHERIFF’S DEPARTMENT ( BSD )

    Sheriff Luna you lied to the residents of Los Angeles County. You clearly said there were Deputy Gangs when Alex Villanueva was Sheriff of Los Angeles County, fast forward 2024 and you are at the helm of the Bandido Gang now you say nothing to see here.
    To all the Democrats who voted for Luna… he conned you guys. By the way did anyone ask Luna to show the ink on his calf.

  • I’m surprised Villanada’s boy Hatami hasn’t pulled his card from the race..

    “During the first year of Gascón’s tenure as DA, Hatami also become known for relentlessly slamming the new District Attorney on X—the social media platform formerly known as Twitter— and on Fox News, where he made such statements as “Los Angeles is a ‘lawless society’ under DA George Gascón.”

    I find the above hilarious of little Jonathan. Because he will block you when reminded of the truth.

  • Gascón has an agenda. He was sent here. Who in their right mind would put someone at the helm of the largest DA’s office in the country when they haven’t tried a single criminal case? I am not trying to take anything away from any of the candidates; as I have met some of them and can honestly see any single one of them being a better fit…. but Gascón is a shoe-in; unless individuals start holding people accountable.

    Hold each individual accountable, the “unhoused”, law abiding citizens, criminals, everyone.

  • 9N:

    Thanks for that link; most revelatory.
    Most LAT (L.A. Times) stories have a pay-wall: you’ve got to subscribe to the paper to read the story.
    But this story has no such pay-wall.

  • @Rakkasan,
    Yes looks like this article on LA Times was not linked to a pay subscription. More to come on this. It seems like there may be some hypocrisy here from the current incumbent.

  • So why is Sheriff Luna campaigning for Prop 1. Here is why.

    Sheriff Robert Luna – if you want to help the homeless Industrial complex (yes you, your family members and the elite few who make millions, and benefit from our money… our hard- earned money) then donate your $ 400,000 / yr pension from Long Beach, and the current County welfare you receive of another $ 420,000/ yr.

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