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Group seeking to recall Alameda DA Pamela Price can now collect signatures

Group seeking to recall Alameda DA Pamela Price can now collect signatures

The group seeking to recall Alameda County District Attorney Pamela Price announced Thursday that it had received approval from the county’s Registrar of Voters to begin collecting signatures — signifying a key step in their bid to kick the county’s top prosecutor out of office.

The effort calling itself Save Alameda for Everyone (SAFE): Recall DA Pamela Price now has 160 days to collect 73,195 valid signatures from registered voters in the county, said Carl Chan, a recall leader and the government affairs chair of the Oakland Chinatown Chamber of Commerce. He said the group plans to seek at least 100,000 signatures over the next five and a half months to ensure that it reaches the county’s threshold, a goal that could cost up to $1 million reach.

In making the announcement, Chan said he was “ecstatic” to have finally reached this latest, critical phase.

“Everything is about public safety in people’s minds,” Chan said. “We need to rebuild not only the system, but the confidence of the people. We want to send a strong message — people committing crimes, there have to be consequences.”

The announcement Thursday signals the latest step in a bid to remove Price, who took office barely 10 months ago while pledging to remake the East Bay’s criminal justice system by taking aim at its legacy of mass incarceration, while holding police officers to account when they err while using deadly force. It also marks the second recall effort aimed at a Bay Area district attorney in just the last few years, after voters in San Francisco booted their own progressive DA, Chesa Boudin, from office in a nationally-watched contest in June 2022.

Messages left by this news organization with Price’s campaign were not immediately returned.

The East Bay recall effort has little precedent in Alameda County. A statement by County Counsel Donna Ziegler in mid-August said that no recall election had been held in the county for at least 30 years — “if ever.”

Still, the recall’s organizers face a difficult task in even getting the question before voters.

In general, campaign strategists assume that only about 70% of the signatures turned into county elections officials are valid. It’s a conservative estimate tied to a variety of factors, including people accidentally signing petitions twice and people living in other counties signing local petition forms. Sometimes, people sign a petition even though they aren’t registered to vote.

And while Boudin was recalled in San Francisco, other efforts aimed at district attorneys have failed before they could even hit the ballot boxes. For example, opponents of Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascón, another progressive prosecutor, failed to submit enough valid signatures in 2022 to qualify for a recall election.

“Signature gathering is just an equation of time and money,” said Oakland political consultant Jim Ross, noting that such efforts are known to cost anywhere from $6 to $10 a signature. “It’s not anything else — it’s just how many people can you put on the street gathering signatures.”

Chan said that the recall campaign is still training volunteers on how to collect signatures, and that it is closing in on a contract to also hire professional signature gatherers to aid in the effort. He said the group plans to host a kickoff rally in the near future.

Recall organizers have routinely criticized Price for her efforts at curtailing prison sentences and reducing the number of sentencing enhancements filed against criminals defendants. They have pointed to her handling of multiple murder prosecutions — including the killing of a Fremont toddler shot dead on Interstate 880 — as signs of Price not being tough enough on crime.

Price, a longtime civil rights attorney, has pilloried lengthy prison sentences as a vestige of the country’s racist overreaction to crime, one that has devastated communities of color and led to unnecessary mass incarceration of criminals. A vocal critic of law enforcement, she also has taken steps to re-open misconduct cases against police and sheriff’s deputies.

In her formal response to the recall petition, Price sent the recall’s organizers a bulleted list of 17 accomplishments that she said her team had achieved during her first eight months in office.

Those items included the filing of charges in 7,610 cases — 58 of which were murder cases — and expanding the DA office’s felony trial team and its mental health courts, while “embracing high-tech tools to deliver fair justice faster for victims.” She also touted hiring 98 attorneys and other staff members, while assembling “the most diverse class of victim-witness advocates ever.”