As we inch closer to the 2024 L.A. County Primary Elections in March, KBLA Talk 1580, operated by Tavis Smiley, released the results of a countywide survey of 500 Black likely voters. The poll illustrated key issues that affect Los Angeles County’s Black community in the hope of keeping candidates accountable ahead of a pivotal election.
“As ballots hit the streets, more Black voters are starting to pay attention to this important race and it’s wide open at this point,” said Smiley.
The talk show host is referring to the wide-open District Attorney race, which Black voters are highly enthusiastic about and most are following closely, with Black conservatives and moderates monitoring the race more than progressives and liberals with 61% to 47%, respectively.
Current D.A. George Gascòn is considered the likely favorite to retain his position as none of the other challengers stand a fighting chance. According to the survey, Gascòn leads with 21% of the vote, with the second highest candidate being L.A. Superior Court Judge Debra Archelta, getting 6% of the vote.
Gascòn’s supporters, mostly progressives according to the survey, say that he is the only candidate to enact [his] policies that are designed to address the root causes of crime and institutional racism within the criminal justice system.
His opponents, however, say his policies have made Los Angeles less safe and that he is unwilling to work with law enforcement. Voters attribute a spike in smash-and-grab robberies, follow-me-home murders, and a blatant disregard for victims’ rights to Gascón’s lack of leadership.
“Black voters are disproportionately and heavily impacted by crime and intensely interested in criminal justice reform,” said Smiley. “D.A. candidates who focus exclusively on ‘cracking down on crime’ and ignoring the root causes of this issue – a lack of mental health and social services, as well as unemployment – run the risk of alienating Black voters.”
According to the survey, only one in five Black voters support incumbent DA George Gascón, and nearly 48% of voters disapprove of Gascón’s job performance.
The survey also asked participants to re-read other candidate profiles to see if their vote would change, and the results netted an increase in support for John McKinney, who was famous for leading the prosecution in the death of the famous rapper, Nipsey Hussle; Jeff Cherminsky, former Chief of the violent crimes prosecutions unit in the L.A. branch of the U.S. Attorney’s office. The two candidates still sit behind the incumbent D.A.
Aside from the candidates, Black voters express more concern in the direction of Los Angeles County, with 47% of participants saying that the county is going in the wrong direction.
Voters cite homelessness, housing, and the rising cost of living rank as severe problems facing the county. The survey suggests that 82% believe that homelessness is an extremely serious problem, 75% cite a lack of affordable housing, and 74% mark the cost of living as too high.
Furthermore, 53% of Black voters feel vulnerable in terms of safety with 66% indicating that crime has increased over the past year. The majority of voters attribute the increase in crime to a lack of resources to meet basic needs, alongside a decline in morals/family values, unemployment, and changes in the law that reduce punishment for certain crimes as the primary factors.
Despite this, the majority of Black voters do not believe that criminal justice reform has gone far enough. They are looking for candidates who can address the complexity of the issues rather than offering a one-size-fits-all solution.
“These results are both instructive and informative for candidates in that they highlight how the Black community’s sentiments and preferences are distinctive,” said Shakari Byerly, Managing Partner at EVITARUS, the company that conducted the survey. “A ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to campaigning won’t work with this community.”
The vote-by-mail ballots for the upcoming March primaries will be arriving soon in the mail for every registered voter in California. To make sure you get yours, first check that you are registered to vote by Feb. 20, to confirm that your mailing address is correct.