gasconcutlede.jpgWhen at 12:01 Sunday afternoon, Newsom spokesperson Francis Tsang announced via email that at 2 PM, Mayor Newsom was going to “swear in San Francisco’s new District Attorney” I thought, wait, what? Did he appoint a new DA and I somehow missed this? A news report from SF Weekly and an email from the SF City Attorney’s office, however, confirmed that a new SF DA’s been chosen — and it’s SFPD Chief George Gascon.

SF Weekly was the first (to my knowledge) report that Gascon, who they remind us, has a law degree, will move from being SF’s Order, to SF’s Law. The appointment’s being described by the Chron as “It’s a surprise move” (hell, yeah, in all the speculation we’ve heard on who Newsom would pick as the next DA, Gascon’s name never came up) “that shakes up the city’s law enforcement structure.”

According to the Chron, “Gascón was a rising star at the Los Angeles Police Department before moving to Arizona. The graduate of Western State University College of Law in Fullerton has been a licensed attorney in California since 1996.”

In an emailed statement, City Attorney Dennis Herrera “today praised Mayor Gavin Newsom’s appointment of Police Chief George Gascón as District Attorney to fulfill the unexpired term of Kamala Harris,” saying “(p)olice Chief George Gascón is a stellar choice for District Attorney of San Francisco….I couldn’t hope for a better ally to continue Kamala Harris’s record in aggressively prosecuting gang injunction cases.”

That Gascon is Herrera’s best ally might be news to Harris who, the Ex reports, “pushed to appoint Paul Henderson Jr,” a deputy DA in her office. Henderson was also viewed as a frontrunner by City Hall insider publication Fog City Journal, who described Henderson as “the likely appointee” for the office.

The Chronicle seems just as excited as Herrera, on Monday publishing both an editorial describing Gascon’s appointment as “inspired,”and a column by CW Nevius describing it as “a stroke of genius.”

There’s a year of Harris’ term left for Gascon to serve, and he’s expected, says the Chron, to mount a campaign to be elected to the office in the November 2011 election.

In a statement emailed by Newsom this afternoon, Gascon describes himself as “profoundly honored by this opportunity.” He is, the statement notes, San Francisco’s first Latino District Attorney in history.

According to Bay City News, Newsom had narrowed down the candidates to replace Harris to about six people when he sought counsel from Gascon on Saturday.

But as Newsom listened to Gascon give his recommendations for the district attorney seat, the outgoing mayor realized his search was over.

“It became clear to me that he was the choice,” Newsom said.

Gascon, who didn’t previously know he was being considered, had to make up his mind quickly when Newsom made the offer, and the rest, as we know, is history.

And what about the top SFPD job? As the Weekly puts it “certainly, the ‘nationwide search’ for his replacement will commence.” Until then, says CBS5, Assistant Police Chief Jeff Godown will take over as interim Chief of Police, as part of what the Ex described as “a snowball effect of interim appointments.”

SFPD spokesperson Lt. Troy Dangerfield confirmed Godown’s appointment to the Ex, saying that it could take months to fill the position.

Perhaps who’s in charge at SFPD doesn’t really matter– as Dangerfeld told the Ex, “It’s still business as usual for us…the real policing is done on the streets with the officers, that hasn’t changed.”

Note: this article’s been modified since it’s original publication. Nothing was removed, but as other news orgs filed their reports and officials released statements, I did add links and quotes from them to the piece.

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the author

Eve Batey is the editor and publisher of the San Francisco Appeal. She used to be the San Francisco Chronicle's Deputy Managing Editor for Online, and started at the Chronicle as their blogging and interactive editor. Before that, she was a co-founding writer and the lead editor of SFist. She's been in the city since 1997, presently living in the Outer Sunset with her husband, cat, and dog. You can reach Eve at

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