George Gascón might be preparing to be a prosecutor, but he is already thinking like a politician.
On Thursday, the former police chief quietly changed his party affiliation to Democrat as he prepares to run for district attorney in the liberal stronghold of San Francisco, The San Francisco Examiner has learned.
After being hired as police chief in The City in August 2009, Gascón declined to state a party affiliation when he registered to vote here. But he was a registered Republican when he was police chief in Mesa, Ariz., according to records with the Maricopa County Department of Elections.
Also, in a 2008 Los Angeles Times article he described himself as a longtime Republican.
Gascón’s Republican past will likely haunt him on the campaign trail, political consultant Jim Ross said.
“It’s important to be a Democrat running for any office [in The City]. San Francisco is a strongly Democratic town,” Ross said.
In an interview, Gascón told The Examiner he picked the political party “to fit my beliefs.” He said he voted for President Barack Obama, President Bill Clinton and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. “I’ve always voted for the person,” he said.
As for his past GOP registration, Gascón said, “If people think that’s an issue, they can take their best shot. I’ve never tried to hide it.”
In a town with 470,899 registered voters, 264,444 are registered Democrats and just 44,542 are registered Republicans. Endorsements by the local Democratic Party and Democratic clubs play a significant role in influencing election outcomes.
Gascón said he broke from the Republican Party after becoming fed up with its handling of immigration issues. His own positions on immigration drew criticism from conservatives when he was police chief in Mesa.
Also, he said, he takes issue with the GOP’s stances on same-sex marriage and spending on social services.
“Increasingly, the Republican Party moved further and further away from my own convictions,” Gascón said.
After serving as San Francisco’s police chief for 17 months, Gascón was appointed district attorney in a surprising move Sunday by outgoing Mayor Gavin Newsom to finish out the remainder of Kamala Harris’ term. But he must win election in November to keep the post.
The Republican label has been used to attack local candidates in the past. About two decades ago, longtime city official Anne Marie Conroy lost her citywide bid for supervisor after political consultants managed to brand her with the GOP stamp.