S.F. Prosecutor Faces Tough Race 

S.F. Prosecutor Faces Tough Race 
Posted by FoM on October 30, 1999 at 13:49:04 PT
By Michael Warren, Associated Press Writer 
Source: AccessArizona
This should be an easy time for prosecutors to get re-elected, what with crime dropping nationally and the economy booming. 
Particularly in San Francisco, where a 33 percent drop in violent crime since 1995 beats the 26 percent decline in New York City as well as many other cities with tough-on-crime leadership. But nothing has ever come easy to former Golden Gloves boxer Terence ``Kayo'' Hallinan, a pugnacious liberal who bills himself as ``America's most progressive district attorney.'' Hallinan, 62, faces four challengers on Tuesday. The toughest is Bill Fazio, a former assistant D.A. who has called Hallinan ``pathetic'' and temperamentally unsuited for the job. The two were running even in a recent poll, which was taken after the San Francisco Chronicle compared police arrests to convictions at trial and reported that the success rate of Hallinan's office was 32.5 percent--the lowest in the state. Hallinan says the conviction rate ignores a series of diversion programs, which in 1998 resulted in two-thirds fewer people going to prison compared to 1993. And all of his challengers pledged in a pre-election debate to continue and even expand on these policies. Divert nonviolent drug offenders to school, not jail? Legalize medicinal marijuana use? Send prostitutes and ``johns'' to social workers, rather than courtrooms? Send misdemeanor spousal abusers to ``batterer's school'' for a year? Absolutely, and more, the candidates say. ``This is San Francisco,'' said Fazio, who lost to Hallinan in 1995 after running a tough-on-crime campaign. ``We're all progressive to a certain degree.'' The other candidates include former assistant D.A. Steve Castleman, who accuses Hallinan of blowing a huge environmental case; Matt Gonzalez, a deputy public defender who wants to decriminalize all marijuana use and end the death penalty; and Mike Schaefer, a wealthy lawyer and ex-con who has spent 33 years campaigning for offices around the country, almost always unsuccessfully. For Hallinan, the political has always been personal. A former city supervisor and longtime activist for civil rights and other causes, he had to fight all the way to the state Supreme Court to become a lawyer after the bar blocked him, citing his civil disobedience convictions and some youthful fistfights. Since becoming D.A., Hallinan got heat for firing 14 deputies and replacing them with minorities and gays and lesbians in what he called an effort to make the office reflect the city. He's also been accused of being too willing to plea-bargain with defense lawyers, and improperly trying to influence several trials with his public comments. ``I judge my success by a decline in violent crime and an increase in public safety. On that level, I'm leading the whole country,'' Hallinan said. AP-NY-10-30-99 1509EDTCopyright 1999, The Associated Press. 
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