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Behind the Scenes in Mayor London Breed’s Search to Replace DA Chesa Boudin

Written by Josh Koehn and Han LiPublished Jun. 13, 2022 • 3:06pm
Mayor London Breed prepares to speak to a crowd at the new Google office location at One Maritime in Embarcadero on April 27, 2022. | Camille Cohen/The Standard

San Francisco Mayor London Breed has wasted no time in her search to appoint a new district attorney after the recall of Chesa Boudin—in fact, she started taking meetings to identify Boudin’s successor weeks before Election Day, sources told The Standard.

Breed has taken roughly two dozen meetings with community organizations, business groups, labor unions and even San Francisco Superior Court judges to learn more about the DA’s office and identify the ideology and abilities needed to serve as the city’s top prosecutor, according to sources at City Hall and individuals who have taken part in meetings.

While the mayor has been conducting a fact-finding tour of meetings and phone calls, sources told The Standard that Sean Elsbernd—the mayor’s chief of staff and a former supervisor—has taken on the task of personally vetting all of the candidates. Breed took a similar approach before appointing Supervisor Matt Dorsey last month and three school board members after a February recall election.

Supervisor Catherine Stefani at City Hall on November 16, 2021. | Camille Cohen/The Standard

The people most frequently being identified as candidates to become interim district attorney include Supervisor Catherine Stefani, a former county clerk and vocal supporter of law enforcement; Nancy Tung, an Alameda County prosecutor and expected candidate for the job in November; former San Francisco prosecutor and recall spokesperson Brooke Jenkins; San Francisco Superior Court Judge Victor Hwang; Eric Fleming, also a judge in San Francisco who previously served in the DA’s Office under Kamala Harris; Department of Police Accountability head Paul Henderson; Suzy Loftus, who was interim DA before Boudin’s election; and civil rights attorney Joe Alioto Veronese, who announced his run for DA earlier this year.

Breed is expected to officially appoint someone in mid-July after the election results are certified. Whomever the mayor selects would oversee the DA’s office until an election is held in November. The winner would then serve out the remainder of Boudin’s term, which ends in January 2024. 

Sources confirmed that Elsbernd met with Tung, who previously announced her intention to run for district attorney in November if the recall were to succeed. Tung did not respond to requests for comment for this story, but she told The Standard in a March interview that many people in the Asian American and Pacific Islander community have encouraged her to run. 

The AAPI voting bloc played a key role in recalling Boudin, as many involved in the Stop Asian Hate movement felt the progressive prosecutor was not being aggressive enough in his handling of cases.

“I think that the Asian American community has a very strong interest in public safety and, generally speaking, the victims have not been protected in this process since (Boudin) took office,” Tung said in a March interview. “I think victims have been mostly left out under his administration, and I want to fix that.”

San Francisco District Attorney candidate Nancy Tung in San Francisco, Calif., on Tuesday, February 5, 2019. | Scott Strazzante/San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images

Alioto Veronese, who also met with Elsbernd, has started a committee to run in November. Alioto Veronese declined to discuss the details of his conversations with the mayor’s office, but he suggested the next DA should be a caretaker until voters can weigh in again come November.

“Although, I can tell you that if I were appointed, I could make San Francisco feel safer in 60 days,” said Alioto Veronese, adding that he plans to release details on how exactly he would do this in the next three weeks.

Supervisor Stefani has weekly meetings with the mayor’s office but has not met with Elsbernd to specifically discuss the DA appointment, a source told The Standard. The supervisor was one of just a few elected officials in San Francisco to publicly endorse the recall. Her criticism of Boudin was seen by many as a play for the job. 

When asked about her interest in being appointed DA on election night, Stefani said: “We shall see.”

Jenkins, who quit working in Boudin’s office last year to serve as the lead voice of the recall campaign, told The Standard she wants to return to the DA’s office.

“In what capacity? I don’t care,” Jenkins said. “I was perfectly fine trying cases. If somebody wants me to do something different, I am open to considering that.”

Hwang, whose wife Ivy Lee is a policy advisor to Mayor Breed, told The Standard he’s not interested in becoming district attorney and is not seeking an appointment. He has another six years on the bench after winning an uncontested race this month.

Henderson declined comment but sent out a tweet that seems to reiterate comments Mayor Breed and others have made: The next district attorney will need to continue advancing reforms to the criminal justice system while making sure offenders are held accountable and the public feels like crime isn’t going unchecked.

Sources said Loftus has informed the mayor’s office she is not interested in being appointed DA again—Breed tabbed her just before the 2019 election—and requests for comment from Fleming were not immediately returned.

Former SF Assistant DA Brooke Jenkins on Tuesday, June 7, 2022, in San Francisco, Calif. | Paul Kuroda for The Standard.

Boudin has not made any public comment since election night, but recall results have tightened a bit over the last week. Current election tallies show a 55-45 split in favor of the recall, with 46% of registered voters casting a ballot.

Julie Edwards, a campaign spokesperson for Boudin, said the recall’s shrinking margin of victory suggests the progressive prosecutor still has substantial support in the city, and the results of the recall would have been much different if not for the millions of dollars spent on gathering signatures and campaign ads.

Despite the results of last week’s election, Boudin still has the option of running for district attorney again in November.

“As far as I know, he hasn’t made any decisions,” Edwards said. “But the fact you are asking reinforces what the numbers show: He has the support of a broad coalition of voters who weren’t swayed by the millions of dollars of attacks from the recall.”

Correction: This article has been updated to reflect that Tung has not started a committee to run in November. 

Michael Barba, Jonah Owen Lamb and Mike Ege contributed additional reporting for this story.

Josh Koehn can be reached at
Han Li can be reached at

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