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Last month, as has become The Recorder’s, custom, we endorsed Bill Fazio for district attorney. This month, as is his custom, he failed to win election. The Dec. 9 runoff is instead between incumbent Terence Hallinan and challenger Kamala Harris. As we indicated in our previous editorial, we believe Harris is the better choice. Our problem with Hallinan is not his progressive politics. We — The Recorder’s editorial board — generally support Hallinan’s philosophy of emphasizing rehabilitation over retribution for non-violent crimes, keeping medicinal marijuana legal, and seeking community-based judicial solutions. But governing is more than staking out political positions. It’s also about implementing the vision. That’s especially true in an executive branch position, which this is. We believe Hallinan has failed to deliver on his vision. Although he promised to “throw the book” at violent criminals, his office has an atrocious conviction rate. His staff has been plagued by high turnover. And high-profile prosecutions such as the fajitagate police misconduct case and the dog-mauling trial — the kinds of cases that send the loudest message to the community — have appeared to be driven by personal and political considerations and, in the end, fallen short. Hallinan makes several arguments in his defense — for example, he says poor police work is more to blame for the conviction rate than he is — but, frankly, we don’t buy it. We believe it’s time to give a new leader a chance. Kamala Harris, a former prosecutor now on leave from the S.F. city attorney’s office, has much to offer the city of San Francisco. She has brains, energy and leadership skills. She enjoys a broad cross-section of support, including many people who have worked closely with her in bar association and community groups. She spent eight years in the Alameda County DA’s office, one of the top prosecution shops in the state, giving her another perspective on what the San Francisco district attorney could achieve. We believe she would bring the credibility and the people skills to have effective working relationships with the police department, the city attorney’s office, the mayor and the board of supervisors — more effective than the incumbent’s. Like Hallinan, Harris wants to take a progressive approach to law enforcement and crime prevention. Her politics may not be quite as liberal as Hallinan’s — she promises to take a tougher approach to quality of life crimes, for example — but they’re pretty close. We are not talking about the second coming of Draco. And, after all, some people actually do commit serious crimes and should be put in prison for it — even in San Francisco. We did not endorse Harris in the general election largely due to the conduct of her campaign. We believe she has been less than candid about her support from Mayor Willie Brown and some of his closest allies. The issue isn’t Harris’ long-ago personal relationship with Brown; it is his present financial and political support for her campaign. Although Harris and her supporters self-righteously attack anyone who raises the connection, the fact is that Brown has personally contributed $500 to Harris’ campaign — the maximum allowable by law — and many of his friends have too. And a Brown political consultant has circulated a fund-raising letter signed by Brown that seeks contributions on Harris’ behalf. These concerns were heightened by Harris’ violation of the city’s campaign spending cap, perhaps even more so by her fuzzy explanation for it. We believe that if a candidate agrees to the spending cap she should stick to it — not blow through it and then blame an anonymous campaign staffer for allegedly misunderstanding the law. Although we perceive some risk with Harris, who has never held elective office, we also see potential for her to bring the vision, the passion and the management skills to elevate the San Francisco DA’s office to what it should be — a statewide leader in traditional law enforcement, compassionate rehabilitation and progressive crime prevention. We endorse Harris for district attorney.

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