There have been many district attorney debates already in the run-up to the November vote. On Wednesday night, however, a coalition of civil rights organizations hosted a particularly entertaining one at the African American Arts & Culture Complex in the Western Addition. Why was this debate more fun than most? Yes, it had the usual back-and-forth between the candidates, with current DA George Gascon telling criminal justice reformer David Onek that Onek’s “never had a real job.” And then Onek and Alameda County Assistant DA Sharmin Bock teaming up on Gascon to badger the former police chief with conflict-of-interest claims when it comes to police misconduct. What made this debate different than the others was a new face. Meet candidate Vu Trinh, a former public defender in Orange County, and UC-Hastings grad who grew up in the Tenderloin:
Trinh, as they say, stole the show with his awkward pauses, seeming non sequiturs, and ultimately, his matter-of-fact insights. The audience was completely taken in when, asked whether he’s ever been arrested, Trinh revealed that yes, he has–twice, for thefts he didn’t commit and ultimately was not charged with. It’s horrible to be arrested for a crime you didn’t commit, Trinh said. And kind of ironic, in his case, because “I was a thief all my life,” Trinh continued, as the audience roared with laughter.
Other than that Vu Trinh can work an audience, there were other lessons from the latest district attorneys debate:
- George Gascon has also been arrested. As a teenager, Gascon said, he liked to drive fast cars and got a lot of speeding tickets. A particularly bad one landed him with a three-day jail sentence, of which he served one day.
- All the candidates, except for Sharmin Bock, believe San Francisco police should carry Tasers. (Last Trinh quote, in response to the yes-or-no question: “…[pause] it’s better than shooting people!”) This could become a distinguishing issue for Bock who, as a lifelong prosecutor, can come across as less reform-minded than her opponents.
- Bock and Trinh said they would not prosecute anyone under the Sit-Lie law. Gascon and Onek said they would in some cases.
For more clips from the debate, check out New America Media.