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District attorney candidates face off in TV debate co-sponsored by Cal State LA’s Pat Brown Institute

October 5, 2020

By Henry Fuhrmann | Cal State LA News Service

The two candidates for Los Angeles County district attorney faced off in a live televised debate co-sponsored by the Pat Brown Institute for Public Affairs (PBI) at Cal State LA, ABC7 and the League of Women Voters of Los Angeles City and County.

Incumbent Jackie Lacey and challenger George Gascón fielded questions during the Oct. 3 debate from ABC7 Eyewitness News anchor Marc Brown, who served as moderator, as well as ABC7 reporter Adrienne Alpert and Univision Los Angeles anchor León Krauze. The one-hour program was the first live TV broadcast debate in the spirited district attorney runoff.

Because of the pandemic, the debate was conducted with the candidates and journalists connecting remotely from separate locations. The program was streamed live on ABC7’s apps and website, where the program is archived for those who missed the prime-time TV broadcast. The debate was translated into Spanish by Univision, which aired it the next afternoon.

Lacey, seeking her third term as Los Angeles district attorney, and Gascón advanced to the fall general election as the top two finishers in a hotly contested March primary. Gascón is a former Los Angeles police officer and previously served as district attorney in San Francisco.

Lacey and Gascón, both Democrats, were questioned by the three journalists during the Saturday night debate on topics including holding law enforcement accountable, systemic racism in law enforcement, the death penalty, prison release programs and homelessness. The candidates disagreed about what reforms are needed in the district attorney’s office and which of them is more qualified to carry them out.

I learned a lot about the candidates, both on the issues and their styles, and I hope that others did as well,” said Raphael J. Sonenshein, PBI executive director.

By presenting debates in a format that is professional, nonpartisan and objective,” he said, we enable voters to learn about candidates’ policy priorities and their approaches to governing. The live TV broadcast offers a window on how the candidates react under pressure and challenge, and gives voters an up-close perspective on their demeanors and tones.”

Saturday’s debate continued a collaboration that dates to February 2013, when PBI joined with ABC7 and the nonpartisan League of Women Voters to present a debate with five candidates for mayor of Los Angeles, including Eric Garcetti, who went on to win the election. In 2016, the three sponsoring organizations were designated to present the only televised debate in California’s 2016 U.S. Senate election, an event held at Cal State LA featuring the current Democratic candidate for vice president, Sen. Kamala Harris.

Debates and other programs presented by PBI contribute to a healthy civic discourse and highlight Cal State LA’s continuing commitment to engagement and service for the public good,” said José A. Gómez, the university’s executive vice president and chair of PBI’s board of advisers. We are again grateful to the League of Women Voters and ABC7 and thank Univision for expanding the reach of the debate with its Spanish-language broadcast.”

With ballots being mailed this week to registered voters in California, Saturday’s debate was especially timely. Cal State LA has created a voter information website that includes details about voting options for the Nov. 3 General Election and links to register to vote and making a vote plan.

Screenshot: Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey and challenger George Gascón faced off in a live televised debate co-sponsored by the Pat Brown Institute for Public Affairs at Cal State LA, ABC7 and the League of Women Voters of Los Angeles City and County.

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California State University, Los Angeles is the premier comprehensive public university in the heart of Los Angeles. Cal State LA is ranked number one in the United States for the upward mobility of its students. Cal State LA is dedicated to engagement, service, and the public good, offering nationally recognized programs in science, the arts, business, criminal justice, engineering, nursing, education, and the humanities. Founded in 1947, the University serves more than 26,000 students and has more than 250,000 distinguished alumni.

Cal State LA is home to the critically-acclaimed Luckman Fine Arts Complex, Pat Brown Institute for Public Affairs, Hertzberg-Davis Forensic Science Center, Hydrogen Research and Fueling Facility, Billie Jean King Sports Complex and the TV, Film and Media Center. For more information, visit