Vote Becton for Contra Costa District Attorney June 5

Last September, Contra Costa County’s Board of Supervisors appointed retired Superior Court Judge Diana Becton as interim district attorney. The position became open after a scandal forced the resignation of then DA Mark Petersen. The state charged Peterson “with 13 felonies connected to his admitted use of his campaign fund as if it were a personal bank account.”

Did you hear about her appointment at the time? With the perpetual Trump tornado in Washington, many important stories wind up getting overlooked. Catch up on the history at our prior articles. And make no mistake: this was an important story then and has grown to even greater significance now.

As interim DA, Becton became the first woman and first African-American to hold this position in the 168-year history of Contra Costa County. She now seeks to remove the “interim” from her title as she competes in the June 5th election for District Attorney.

Following a poll where Judge Becton received unanimous support, Indivisible East Bay’s CA-11 Team endorsed Becton for the District Attorney position, and the IEB Governance Committee subsequently voted to endorse her. We strongly urge all Contra Costa County IEB members to vote for Judge Becton. “Lower down on the ballot” offices are too often overlooked by voters, due to a lack of name recognition, uncertainty as to the positions of the candidates, or a mistaken belief that these offices don’t matter. Don’t let this happen here! Judge Becton is precisely the sort of progressive candidate that IEB is proud to support. Adding to the importance of voting for Becton in June: If the winner in this three-person race gets a majority, it’s over; there will be no run-off in November.

Prior to her current position as DA, Becton was a Judge in Contra Costa for over two decades and was elected by her colleagues as the Presiding Judge of the Superior Court for the First District Court of Appeals. Calling her a “great DA,” the Richmond Progressive Alliance recently wrote: “Becton received highest marks on a [Contra Costa County Racial Justice Coalition] community scorecard that ranked candidates on a range of issues, from bail reform to support for re-entry services.”

The District Attorney position critically affects the lives of many county residents. The DA has the power to decide whether criminal charges are brought against an individual, the severity of the charges, whether the person is diverted to a system such as mental health, and the priority of cases. Becton has worked especially hard to improve diversion programs for low level crimes and for people with mental illness who need treatment, not punishment.

With her predecessor criminally charged and her main opponent involved in questionable campaign activity regarding a donation from Sheriff David Livingston, we need a District Attorney with the record and integrity to bring transparency and accountability to the office. Judge Diana Becton is that person.

The IEB CA-11 team is putting our energy where our endorsement is, and volunteering to help elect Judge Becton — can you join us?

  • Saturday, May 5,  9 am to 1 pm: table for Judge Becton with the CA-11 Team and others at the El Cerrito Farmers Market  
  • Monday, May 7, 4 to 6 pm: help pass out flyers at El Cerrito Plaza BART station

And to learn more about the candidates:

  • April 28, 2 PM: meet Judge Becton, the featured speaker at the Courageous Resistance / Indivisible El Sobrante / Richmond meeting. RSVP & all info here.
  • April 30, 6:30-8 PM: Contra Costa County District Attorney Candidate Forum. Hercules Library. Host: League of Women Voters.

Please email if you have questions or want to help.

And Then There Were Five

The Contra Costa Board of Supervisors has winnowed to five the pool of a dozen applicants for the District Attorney position left vacant by Chief Prosecutor Mark Peterson’s resignation. At its August 1, 2017 meeting the Supervisors picked two judges and three district attorneys as finalists:

  • Diana Becton (Contra Costa Superior Court judge)
  • Danielle Douglas (Contra Costa Superior Court judge)
  • Paul J. Graves (senior Contra Costa deputy DA)
  • Thomas J. Kensok (Contra Costa assistant DA)
  • Patrick Vanier (Santa Clara County deputy DA)

Their applications are posted here, and the East Bay Times has published summaries of each finalist’s experience and background. During the selection process there’s much we can do to highlight progressive positions about racial and juvenile justice, mass incarceration of people of color, bail reform, and more.

DA forum

On Saturday August 12, from 1 to 3 pm, attend the free, community-led Contra Costa County Interim District Attorney Candidate Forum. Learn more about the finalists and their views on bail practices and criminal justice reform, immigrant rights, worker and consumer protection, police accountability and the environment. The program will include time for Q&A with audience members. Seating is limited, please RSVP at the Facebook event page. The event will be held at Church of the Nazarene,  1650 Ashbury Dr., Concord, CA. It’s accessible from the Concord BART station and has free parking.

And attend the Supervisors’ upcoming forum and meeting, and submit questions and comments:

  • At the Board’s public forum on Tuesday August 15 at 6:00 pm the finalists will participate in a discussion moderated by former County Clerk Steve Weir.  
  • Submit public comments and/or questions to be posed to the finalists at the August 15 forum.
  • After the forum the Board will interview the final applicants at its September 12 public meeting. The Board could make the appointment that day or at the September 19 meeting.  
  • Give input to your Supervisor by email, phone, or online. See a list of suggested questions to submit.
  • Board meetings are held at the County Administration Building, 651 Pine Street, Martinez, and are streamed and broadcast on Contra Costa Television.

Now Hiring: CoCo County Prosecutor, Felons Need Not Apply

Contra Costa County
Contra Costa County District Attorney Mark Peterson, the chief law enforcement official for one of the most populous counties in California, resigned on June 14th after pleading no contest to one count of felony perjury. Peterson, who was first elected in 2010 and ran unopposed for reelection in 2014, had been charged with 12 counts of felony perjury and one count of felony grand theft for misusing more than $60,000 in campaign funds to pay personal bills and buy jewelry and other items.

Because the election for the DA’s 2019-22 term isn’t until June 2018, with a potential runoff election in November ’18, the Contra Costa Board of Supervisors will appoint an interim DA to serve through 2018.  These are the Board’s key dates:

  • July 21: application deadline

  • Screening process

  • August 1: narrow down to 3-5 applicants

  • August 15: public meeting in Martinez at 6 pm

  • September 12: special meeting to discuss the appointment

  • Late September: appointment of interim DA

Since the interim DA will have an advantage in the 2018 election, progressives should push now for the BOS to appoint one with impeccable ethical standards who’ll listen and respond to the community; provide services to crime victims; and work to create a culture of accountability and improvements in law enforcement, the administration of justice, and beyond. A coalition of community groups and labor unions has called upon the BOS “to engage in a fully transparent and community-centered process for appointing an interim District Attorney. ” Members of the coalition, and others, hope a new DA will address racial inequities in the county’s criminal justice system.

With ten days to go, only Patrick Vanier and Paul Graves have formally thrown their hats into the ring. Questions we’d like to ask Vanier involve his reputation for being harsh toward criminal defendants, his position on bail reform, and whether he’ll seek to increase misdemeanor filings. Graves, a former homicide prosecutor, is the senior deputy DA heading a unit that prosecutes sexual assault, elder abuse and domestic violence. Often described as a traditional ‘law and order’ prosecutor, we’d want to press Graves on whether he’d offer any change from Peterson (aside from the felony criminal conduct, of course). Other names have been floated, and we’ll update with a list when the application deadline closes.

With the cautionary tale of our chief county law enforcement official resigning in disgrace as a convicted felon fresh in the minds of the public and our Supervisors, we have a rare opportunity to raise our voices in favor of a District Attorney who will advance a progressive law enforcement and criminal justice agenda. There’s much we can do!

  • Go to the Tuesday August 15th meeting in Martinez, which will be a candidate forum moderated by former County Clerk Steve Weir. Members of the public will be invited to submit questions for consideration that may be asked of the finalist candidates

  • Go to the Tuesday September 12th special BOS meeting at which the Board will interview in public the finalists

  • Stay tuned – no firm dates or locations yet but many concerned groups are planning house parties and forums where we can meet and question potential candidates

By Heidi Rand