Gascón should make a fine DA — for years to come 

Anyone who says they predicted the events of the past two weeks in San Francisco is either a former Enron utility manager or the next Warren Buffett.

In either case, the advice here is to sell early and sell often.

But it is still a high-risk market, especially for those who would dare wade into the unknown — which would easily describe the place now occupied by former police Chief George Gascón, who decided to take an ambitious leap and move over to the District Attorney’s Office, an agency known to eagerly serve gluttons for punishment.

Gascón’s decision stunned just about every elected and law enforcement official in the Bay Area, since he had served the Police Department with distinction, likely could have held the job for years, then bided his time for whatever outpost became available at the city, state or federal level.

In 10 months, we will know if Gascón chose wisely — the guess here is that he did — but it is still a move fraught with some peril, since the former chief will now serve at the mercy of the San Francisco electorate, a choice that has ended the careers of many fine people who did not understand the full depth of that equation.

I interviewed Gascón shortly after he arrived in San Francisco, where he was viewed as an outsider in a department that for decades has treated such interlopers with hostility. At the time, I asked him if he thought he was ready to deal with The City’s infamous street-fighting politics, which seemingly fill every corner, office and crevice.

“Every city has its politics,” Gascón told me, adding that he understood the political interactions in San Francisco were heightened a bit. Heightened? For most high-level officeholders, it is more like grabbing an electric fence and holding on for dear life.

Gascón has deftly maneuvered the landscape so far, quickly and determinedly becoming the best and most effective police chief here in more than a decade, and showing how quickly a department in need of new professional standards could improve if they were provided.

Now Gascón has entered the realm of politics, into an office where he has no experience and into a world that requires savvy, fundraising and a keen sense of avoiding the sabotages that lie ahead. For most people, I would suggest prayer and appropriate doses of self-medication. For Gascón, I would just say do the job — the rest will take care of itself.

Even in what was potentially a crowded field in the November race for district attorney, do not bet on anyone other than Gascón, no matter how many sanctuary-city enthusiasts and general anarchists protest. Gascón’s shocking move away from the Police Department essentially ended the beginning of a hotly contested campaign to replace Kamala Harris, even if some brave souls running insist they will stay the course.

There is no other course, except to admit the obvious and stop raising money for a hopeless cause. Gascón is immensely popular with voting residents in The City for good reason — he turned around the listing ship known as the SFPD, dropped the homicide rate nearly in half and drastically reduced the number of serious crimes in San Francisco in less than two years.

By the standards of local police work, that is rocket science. And Gascón has enough of a politician in him to know what it will take to win donors and gain grass-roots support throughout The City.

Other candidates could nibble around the edges. Progressives fought him on the sit-lie law and lost — and they hate losing. And there will always be one-third of the populace that is against anything that is sensible and works — just because.

But if you are former Police Commissioner David Onek — who also does not have any trial experience and hardly a smidgen of the name recognition — you thank your many contributors and move on. Ditto for Paul Henderson, who now works for Gascón and finds himself between a desk and a hard place.

And for those who were thinking about entering the race, remain thankful you never even had to withdraw.

In a town full of risks, anything else would be considered reckless.

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Ken Garcia

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