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DA Jenkins declares victory: ‘The people of San Francisco are ready and interested in accountability being restored’

District Attorney Brooke Jenkins interacts with the crowd in a celebratory mood after seeing first results at her election night party at Harborview Restaurant & Bar on Nov. 8, 2022. | Camille Cohen/The Standard

District Attorney Brooke Jenkins declared victory Wednesday morning in the race to retain her appointed position after early results from election night showed her beating back challengers by a wide margin.

“We are at the point now where we believe we can declare a victory in this race,” said Jenkins, who joined Mayor London Breed to visit businesses in Chinatown the morning after the election. “For me, it is certainly affirmation that the people of San Francisco are ready and interested in accountability being restored to the criminal justice system.”

Jenkins said she would balance the need for reform with holding criminals accountable, taking a shot at former District Attorney Chesa Boudin.

“I right now feel more dedicated than ever to persevering in that mission,” she said.

The last round of results from election night showed Jenkins beating her top challenger John Hamasaki with 56% of the vote compared to 44% support for Hamasaki under San Francisco’s ranked-choice voting system, where the candidates with the lowest votes are eliminated.

Jenkins made the strongest showing in first-choice votes, with 48% of voters so far selecting her as their top choice for district attorney. Hamasaki secured 34% of first-choice votes, while the other candidates in the running, Joe Alioto Veronese and Maurice Chenier, got 13% and 5%, respectively.

While Jenkins declared victory, her opponent has yet to concede. Hamasaki, a criminal defense attorney, former Police Commission member and the progressive-backed candidate, said he “fully expect the results to tighten” as the ballots are counted and the latest results are released late Thursday afternoon.

“Whatever happens, I’m grateful for the voters of San Francisco who fought for an independent prosecutor willing to take on City Hall corruption,” Hamasaki told The Standard on Wednesday morning.

There are still about 104,000 ballots left to count, or 40% of the votes cast, according to the Department of Elections.

It’s not insignificant that the mayor and district attorney chose to make the announcement in Chinatown, where repeated attacks on Asian seniors have instilled fear of rising crime in the community.

Alisa Lam (left), the first female president of the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association, District Attorney Brooke Jenkins and Mayor London Breed pose for a photo in San Francisco’s Chinatown on Nov. 9, 2022. Jenkins and Breed were visiting local merchants Wednesday morning to speak on their feelings following Election Day. | Morgan Ellis/The Standard

Jenkins campaigned on the notion that she would restore a sense of safety to San Franciscans that was lost during the pandemic. 

She blamed many of the city’s faults on Boudin, a former public defender and progressive firebrand whom Jenkins accused of failing to hold repeat offenders accountable and putting the rights of criminals over those of crime victims.

Her campaign began four months ago when Breed appointed her to replace Boudin in July after Jenkins quit her job as a rank-and-file prosecutor and helped lead the successful recall campaign against her former boss. 

Jenkins positioned herself as the leading law-and-order candidate in the race, who would crack down on the highly visible drug dealing prevalent in Downtown San Francisco neighborhoods and clean up the streets.

District Attorney Brooke Jenkins addresses the media about her feelings following Election Day in Chinatown on Nov. 9, 2022. | Morgan Ellis/The Standard

Her opponents attacked her for a series of perceived ethical setbacks. A month after her appointment, she disclosed earning more than $170,000 from three nonprofits closely tied to the recall despite casting herself as an unpaid volunteer.

But the district attorney’s race did not bring in the sort of outside spending usually poured into a competitive, citywide contest, indicating that Jenkins’ supporters did not believe she needed much help—and that wealthy donors had little faith in the challengers to win.

Jenkins also had the advantage of serving as the incumbent for four months, showing the public that she could work closely with Breed and her other allies including Police Chief Bill Scott, who had a fraught relationship with Boudin.

In the end, Jenkins’ tough talk on crime seems to have prevailed, and now voters will expect that she lives up to her campaign promises.

Morgan Ellis contributed to this report.

Michael Barba can be reached at mbarba@sfstandard.com