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Bonta enters as one of the nation’s most liberal attorneys general and has repeatedly spoken about a lack of trust between law enforcement and the communities they police. His ascension comes as reform-minded prosecutors have come to power around California and the country and ignited a fierce battle with from law enforcement. Bonta is allied with those prosecutors.

“I’ve been proud to partner with each of you to pass a number of big reforms and to right historic wrongs — to repair our criminal justice system,” Bonta told lawmakers during his confirmation hearing, adding that he hoped to make California “a national vanguard for reform.”

Bonta, 48, takes over a position that has become a prime Democratic stepping stone. The last three state AGs were now-Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra, Vice President Kamala Harris, and former Gov. Jerry Brown.

Eight years ago, Bonta arrived in Sacramento in the midst of a generational shift in thinking on law and order. Emboldened by durable Democratic majorities in both houses of the Legislature and victories at the ballot box, California lawmakers have spent years repudiating the state’s tough-on-crime past by pushing to reduce incarceration and cut down sentencing. Bonta’s record as a lawmaker aligns him firmly with that trend.

Still, voters remain unpredictable. While they affirmed sentencing rollbacks at the ballot last year, they also chose to keep California’s cash bail system, overriding the Legislature’s attempt to ban it.

Two serious Bonta challengers have emerged and more could follow. Republican Nathan Hochman, a former assistant U.S. attorney general, and independent Sacramento District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert announced they would run soon after Bonta was confirmed last month.

Schubert in particular could pose a tough challenge if she survives the June top-two primary. She left the Republican Party in 2018 and has won big headlines for playing a lead role in solving the Golden State Killer crime spree — perhaps the state’s most puzzling cold case in the last 50 years — and helping to identify inmates who were illegally collecting unemployment benefits from California during the pandemic.

She said in an interview that “some of these bills that Bonta is supporting or passing” fuel “the continual erosion of crime victims rights and really a danger to public safety.”

The campaign could morph into the latest referendum on California’s aggressive moves away from stringent sentencing and incarceration. A new class of progressive prosecutors like Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascón and San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin has come to power in California, channeling a national racial justice movement and tapping into a national fundraising network that can counter the deep resources of law enforcement unions. Bonta endorsed Gascón and has worked with Boudin on police use-of-force legislation.

Both Boudin and Gascón have faced headwinds since their election. They are staring down recall campaigns, and a statewide group representing prosecutors joined with Los Angeles line attorneys in suing to block Gascón’s efforts to suspend sentencing enhancements, expanding a rift between the majority of California’s prosecutors and a new generation of reformers. Schubert is a leader in the prosecutors’ group, the California District Attorneys Association.

Bonta’s reelection campaign is likely to reproduce those dynamics on a statewide scale. Bonta predicted at his introductory press conference that “a lot of folks [are] prepared to get behind an election.” Law enforcement interests could throw their weight behind a candidate who rejects the agenda of reformers like Bonta and Gascón.

Schubert already has repudiated Gascón, refusing to share jurisdiction on cases with him, and she said in an interview that “when Gascón and Chesa Boudin are the ones tweeting out their overwhelming support for [Bonta], anyone who’s concerned about public safety should be concerned about this nomination.”

“I believe crime victims’ rights have been eviscerated and they have been ignored by these types of individuals,” she said.

Bonta political adviser Dana Williamson responded that Schubert is “tremendously flawed” and called the Sacramento prosecutor’s criticisms “Trumpian lies” in a likely preview of campaign messaging next year. Williamson was quick to point to CDAA’s misuse of $2.9 million in enforcement funds on political activities and Schubert decisions not to prosecute officers in high-profile police shootings.

“She has refused to bring excessive force cases and serves as treasurer of an organization that misspent millions meant to prosecute polluters,” Williamson said in a statement. “Now she wants to lead the Department of Justice — the same entity that is investigating her organization’s misdeeds.”

Bonta’s history has trained him for a legal career while orienting him toward activism. His parents helped organize California farm workers, giving him a front-row seat from the family trailer — provided by the powerful United Farm Workers — to one of the state’s most storied social justice movements. That experience ensured, in Bonta’s words, that “their fight for justice has been hardwired into who I am.” He went on to earn undergraduate and law degrees from Yale, where he captained the soccer team, before working as an attorney for San Francisco and as a health care official and then vice mayor of Alameda.

He won his East Bay Assembly seat in 2012, wearing a traditional barong tagalog for his swearing in as he became the first Filipino-American to serve in the Legislature. Throughout his time there, Bonta has been a reliably progressive vote at the leftward end of Sacramento’s ever-growing Democratic caucus, and his bills show a long-running commitment to overhauling how California incarcerates immigrants and inmates — repeatedly putting him at odds with influential law enforcement interests.

He fought for years to limit California’s use of private detention facilities, in 2019 securing a ban on for-profit prison contracts. His efforts to phase out cash bail culminated in a law banning the practice that voters subsequently overturned. He sought repeatedly to limit California’s cooperation with Immigration and Customs Enforcement. He has pushed to expand compensation for crime victims and to offer services like condoms and pregnancy care to inmates. He firmly opposes the death penalty.

Bonta has also pushed year after year to have California collect more precise data on Asian American subgroups. One of his first bills signed into law required state curricula on California’s farmworker movement to cover the contributions of Filipino-Americans like his parents.

That record helped build an alliance of criminal justice reformers and Asian Americans who pushed Newsom to appoint Bonta attorney general — a message that gained urgency after a wave of anti-Asian violence. In an interview, Bonta said it was possible to be “smart on crime, while pursuing accountability, supporting our victims and enforcing our existing laws is the right way.”

Progressive backers hope Bonta will continue pushing to reduce incarceration and policing in marginalized communities, forego the death penalty and advocate for more police accountability. During his confirmation hearing, Bonta endorsed legislation that would allow California to decertify peace officers for misconduct — a priority for reformers.

“What’s happening in the world is we’re talking about accountability for individual officers, as we just saw with the Derek Chauvin trial,” said Melina Abdullah, a co-founder of the Black Lives Matter Los Angeles Chapter, “but we’re not talking about accountability for departments. And so we’d love to have Bonta engage in a way that brings accountability for departments.”

That accountability would include investigating police departments when officers shoot and kill suspects, Abdullah said. One of Bonta’s tasks will be enforcing a new state law requiring his office to take over police slaying investigations — which was enacted last year after years of thwarted attempts.

Bonta will have just months on the job before he has to stand for reelection in 2022. That he represents a safely Democratic seat in the liberal Bay Area brings advantages and disadvantages: a lack of competitive elections has let him pile up a $2.4 million war chest, but it also means Bonta has never been truly tested during election season and has scant statewide name recognition.

Despite the competitive election ahead, Bonta can win public opinion, said Tinisch Hollins, the executive director of Californians for Safety and Justice. She points to the elections of Gascón and Boudin as an indication that voters want progressive-minded law enforcement officials.

“There will always be a public political debate about it,” said Hollins, “but when we look at where folks have placed their priorities in terms of what they want to see around public safety, AG Bonta and others like him are on the right track.”

Santa Clara District Attorney Jeff Rosen, a progressive who was on Newsom’s short list for the attorney general nomination, said he believes California voters have a strong desire to see “smart and balanced” criminal justice reform that will be reflected during the election, but cautioned that there’s “very little appetite for a radical dismantling of the criminal justice system.”

“It’s not defunding police, it’s not tearing down the jail, it’s not closing all the prisons,” he continued. “I think [voters] are looking for solutions that keep them and their families safe, and that reduce crime in a humane and effective way.”

Law enforcement groups are taking a cautious approach for now, wary of antagonizing the state’s new top prosecutor before he takes office. San Francisco Police Officers Association head Tony Montoya said Bonta’s record would put him to the left of any prior California attorney general, but Montoya said he remains optimistic they can find common ground as long as Bonta acts “based on the law and the facts” and “with the least amount of politics involved.”

El Dorado County District Attorney Vern Pierson, who heads the California District Attorneys Association, argued Bonta will come to power at a critical moment for public safety, pointing to a “staggering” surge in homicides in Los Angeles and criticizing Gascon’s “reckless” policies.

“It’s a big responsibility, and we’re really hoping he’s a serious attorney general that will recognize some of those serious problems we’re facing,” Pierson said. “In Los Angeles, and to a lesser extent in San Francisco people don’t feel safe.”

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Guinea declares end to latest Ebola outbreak

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“I commend the affected communities, the government and people of Guinea, health workers, partners and everyone else whose dedicated efforts made it possible to contain this Ebola outbreak,” said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General.

“Based on the lessons learned from the 2014–16 outbreak and through rapid, coordinated response efforts, community engagement, effective public health measures and the equitable use of vaccines, Guinea managed to control the outbreak and prevent its spread beyond its borders.” The U.N. said it will continue to provide post-illness care.

The CDC welcomed the news in a statement.

“I commend the government and first responders in Guinea for ending the country’s Ebola outbreak,” said CDC Director Rochelle Walensky. “Our heartfelt sympathies are with the people who lost loved ones to this disease. CDC remains committed to supporting survivor programs and helping strengthen global preparedness and response capacities that can prevent or extinguish future Ebola outbreaks.”

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Hard-line judiciary head wins Iran presidency amid low turnout

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In initial results, former Revolutionary Guard commander Mohsen Rezaei won 3.3 million votes and moderate Abdolnasser Hemmati got 2.4 million, said Jamal Orf, the head of Iran’s Interior Ministry election headquarters. The race’s fourth candidate, Amirhossein Ghazizadeh Hashemi, had around 1 million votes, Orf said.

Hemmati offered his congratulations on Instagram to Raisi early Saturday.

“I hope your administration provides causes for pride for the Islamic Republic of Iran, improves the economy and life with comfort and welfare for the great nation of Iran,” he wrote.

On Twitter, Rezaei praised Khamenei and the Iranian people for taking part in the vote.

“God willing, the decisive election of my esteemed brother, Ayatollah Dr. Seyyed Ebrahim Raisi, promises the establishment of a strong and popular government to solve the country’s problems,” Rezaei wrote.

The quick concessions, while not unusual in Iran’s previous elections, signaled what semiofficial news agencies inside Iran had been hinting at for hours: That the carefully controlled vote had been a blowout win for Raisi amid the boycott calls.

As night fell Friday, turnout appeared far lower than in Iran’s last presidential election in 2017. At one polling place inside a mosque in central Tehran, a Shiite cleric played soccer with a young boy as most of its workers napped in a courtyard. At another, officials watched videos on their mobile phones as state television blared beside them, offering only tight shots of locations around the country — as opposed to the long, snaking lines of past elections.

Balloting came to a close at 2.a.m. Saturday, after the government extended voting to accommodate what it called “crowding” at several polling places nationwide. Paper ballots, stuffed into large plastic boxes, were to be counted by hand through the night, and authorities said they expected to have initial results and turnout figures Saturday morning at the earliest.

“My vote will not change anything in this election, the number of people who are voting for Raisi is huge and Hemmati does not have the necessary skills for this,” said Hediyeh, a 25-year-old woman who gave only her first name while hurrying to a taxi in Haft-e Tir Square after avoiding the polls. “I have no candidate here.”

Iranian state television sought to downplay the turnout, pointing to the Gulf Arab sheikhdoms surrounding it ruled by hereditary leaders, and the lower participation in Western democracies. After a day of amplifying officials’ attempts to get out the vote, state TV broadcast scenes of jam-packed voting booths in several provinces overnight, seeking to portray a last-minute rush to the polls.

But since the 1979 revolution overthrew the shah, Iran’s theocracy has cited voter turnout as a sign of its legitimacy, beginning with its first referendum that won 98.2% support that simply asked whether or not people wanted an Islamic Republic.

The disqualifications affected reformists and those backing Rouhani, whose administration both reached the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers and saw it disintegrate three years later with then-President Donald Trump’s unilateral withdrawal of America from the accord.

Voter apathy also has been fed by the devastated state of the economy and subdued campaigning amid months of surging coronavirus cases. Poll workers wore gloves and masks, and some wiped down ballot boxes with disinfectants.

If elected, Raisi would be the first serving Iranian president sanctioned by the U.S. government even before entering office over his involvement in the mass execution of political prisoners in 1988, as well as his time as the head of Iran’s internationally criticized judiciary — one of the world’s top executioners.

It also would put hard-liners firmly in control across the government as negotiations in Vienna continue to try to save a tattered deal meant to limit Iran’s nuclear program at a time when Tehran is enriching uranium at its highest levels ever, though it still remains short of weapons-grade levels. Tensions remain high with both the U.S. and Israel, which is believed to have carried out a series of attacks targeting Iranian nuclear sites as well as assassinating the scientist who created its military atomic program decades earlier.

Whoever wins will likely serve two four-year terms and thus could be at the helm at what could be one of the most crucial moments for the country in decades — the death of the 82-year-old Khamenei. Speculation already has begun that Raisi might be a contender for the position, along with Khamenei’s son, Mojtaba.

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Apathy greets Iran presidential vote dominated by hard-liner

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“My vote will not change anything in this election, the number of people who are voting for Raisi is huge and Hemmati does not have the necessary skills for this,” said Hediyeh, a 25-year-old woman who gave only her first name while hurrying to a taxi in Haft-e Tir Square after avoiding the polls. “I have no candidate here.”

Iranian state television sought to downplay the turnout, pointing to the Gulf Arab sheikhdoms surrounding it ruled by hereditary leaders and the lower participation in Western democracies. But since the 1979 revolution overthrew the shah, Iran’s theocracy has cited voter turnout as a sign of its legitimacy, beginning with its first referendum that won 98.2% support that simply asked whether or not people wanted an Islamic Republic.

The disqualifications affected reformists and those backing Rouhani, whose administration both reached the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers and saw it disintegrate three years later with then-President Donald Trump’s unilateral withdrawal of America from the accord. Former hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, also blocked from running, said on social media he’d boycott the vote.

Voter apathy also has been fed by the devastated state of the economy and subdued campaigning amid months of surging coronavirus cases. Poll workers wore gloves and masks, and some wiped down ballot boxes with disinfectants.

If elected, Raisi would be the first serving Iranian president sanctioned by the U.S. government even before entering office over his involvement in the mass execution of political prisoners in 1988, as well as his time as the head of Iran’s internationally criticized judiciary — one of the world’s top executioners.

It also would put hard-liners firmly in control across the government as negotiations in Vienna continue to try to save a tattered deal meant to limit Iran’s nuclear program at a time when Tehran is enriching uranium at its highest levels ever, though it still remains short of weapons-grade levels. Tensions remain high with both the U.S. and Israel, which is believed to have carried out a series of attacks targeting Iranian nuclear sites as well as assassinating the scientist who created its military atomic program decades earlier.

Whoever wins will likely serve two four-year terms and thus could be at the helm at what could be one of the most crucial moments for the country in decades — the death of the 82-year-old Khamenei. Speculation already has begun that Raisi might be a contender for the position, along with Khamenei’s son, Mojtaba.

Khamenei cast the first vote from Tehran, urging the public to “go ahead, choose and vote.”

Raisi, wearing a black turban that identifies him in Shiite tradition as a direct descendant of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad, voted from a mosque in southern Tehran. The cleric acknowledged in comments afterward that some may be “so upset that they don’t want to vote.”

“I beg everyone, the lovely youths, and all Iranian men and women speaking in any accent or language from any region and with any political views, to go and vote and cast their ballots,” Raisi said.

But few appeared to heed the call. There are more than 59 million eligible voters in Iran, a nation of over 80 million people. However, the state-linked Iranian Student Polling Agency has estimated a turnout will be just 44%, which would be the lowest since the revolution. Officials gave no turnout figures Friday, though results could come Saturday.

Fears about a low turnout have some warning Iran may be turning away from being an Islamic Republic — a government with elected civilian leadership overseen by a supreme leader from its Shiite clergy — to a country more tightly governed by its supreme leader, who already has final say on all matters of state and oversees its defense and atomic program.

“This is not acceptable,” said former President Mohammad Khatami, a reformist who sought to change the theocracy from the inside during eight years in office. “How would this conform to being a republic or Islamic?”

For his part, Khamenei warned of “foreign plots” seeking to depress turnout in a speech Wednesday. A flyer handed out on the streets of Tehran by hard-liners echoed that and bore the image of Revolutionary Guard Gen. Qassem Soleimani, who was killed in a U.S. drone strike in 2020. A polling station was set up by Soleimani’s grave on Friday.

Some voters appeared to echo that call.

“We cannot leave our destiny in the hands of foreigners and let them decide for us and create conditions that will be absolutely harmful for us,” said Tehran voter Shahla Pazouki.

Also hurting a moderate like Hemmati is the public anger aimed at Rouhani over the collapse of the deal, despite ongoing talks in Vienna to revive it. Iran’s already-ailing economy has suffered since, with double-digit inflation and mass unemployment.

“It is useless,” said Ali Hosseini, a 36-year-old unemployed resident in southern Tehran, about voting. “Anyone who wins the election after some time says he cannot solve problem of the economy because of intervention by influential people. He then forgets his promises and we poor people again remain disappointed.”

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