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Verber Salazar is finding the company one keeps creates situations where ‘perception is reality’
smash grab
Smash and grab criminals at work.

Tori Verber Salazar is a Republican.

It’s too bad she didn’t take advice from a famous GOP political consultant, the late Lee Atwater.

Atwater stressed “perception is reality.”

Understanding that provides the governing the ability to govern.

And in the case of Verber Salazar, it may be what doomed her bid for a third term as San Joaquin County’s district attorney.

Verber Salazar as of Tuesday was trailing her opponent Ron Freitas, 22,881 to 19,427 votes.

That’s out of 54,486 ballots tabulated.

Another 53,994 ballots have yet to be processed and counted.

San Joaquin County is experiencing technical difficulties with a faulty bar code that is slowing things down.

A 3,454 gap isn’t impossible to overcome with 53,994 ballots left to count.

That said, now is as good as time as any to do some Monday morning quarterbacking even though the final score isn’t in.

Take a gander at candidate Verber Salazar’s website.

She isn’t wrong that on her watch murders are down 30 percent in San Joaquin County.

Career criminal recidivism has also dropped.

Some will debate how much that is really the handiwork of the DA, but her office is the one that is in charge of the law.

The order part is left up to the frontline police officers.

Law enforcement associations completely abandoned ship. Not one endorsed her re-election.

They were none too happy that she openly refused to accept their campaign donations.

It had to do with the perception Verber Salazar thought it would create when her office was called upon to consider prosecuting a police officer accused of misconduct.

The reality is her office likely would have still pursued justice in such cases.

And if  she doubted her office’s ability to do so, all it would have taken is one call to the Attorney General’s office in Sacramento.

What matters was the perception.

What rank-and-file police officers heard that they were trying to buy the DA when it came to protecting one of their own.

In reality, such logic directed at law enforcement could also be applied to any campaign dollar that is accepted.

The DA’s office also is charged with prosecuting crimes allegedly committed by citizens, corporations, and individuals with how they function in the capacities of a business or a non-profit organization.

To pursue being as pure as a fresh snowflake under Verber Salazar’s logic she should have turned down all donations.

That was why police had the perception Verber Salazar was doing the No. 1 on them. And the tone of her rhetoric made them feel she was also dumping the No. 2 on them.

Was that the reality?

Not really.

An argument could have been made a few years back that Verber Salazar — as a Republican coming from a family with a history of serving in law enforcement — was the most progressive district attorney in all of California.

That’s right. 

A district attorney from the heart of California that is arguably the most purple county in a state divided between blues and reds was where restorative justice was being taken to the next level.

That meant real reform.

She understood the futile effort of prosecuting homeless for quality of life crimes.

She knew the resources it tied up.

She knew the cost of one homeless arrest to court topped $2,000.

And she knew that in the end nothing would change.

Some call it whack-a-mole. Verber Salazar called it for what it is — insanity.

So, she helped lead a different approach.

Getting the homeless into service aimed at charging their lot and behavior instead of doing repeat recycling through the system until the end of time makes more sense.

It isn’t 100 percent effective but it was getting better.

She made her case to law enforcement and the community.

Then the wheels came off.

Verber Salazar bolted from the traditional district attorneys’ association in California.

She joined forces with San Francisco DA Chesa Boudin and former SF DA George Gascon who would later be elected DA of Los Angeles County.

They formed a progressive law enforcement organization known as the Prosecutors Alliance of California.

It’s not that Verber Salazar was out of her league.

It’s just that Boudin and Gascon were headed to a place that Verber Salazar likely wouldn’t go.

Not because it would be political suicide on San Joaquin County.

It just wasn’t a somewhat more measured approach than she had been taking with the homeless.

But she became joined at the hip with Boudin and Gascon.

Burglars, smash and grab robbers, blatant shoplifters exceeding the misdemeanor threshold of $950 were being booked and released on a wholesale scale.

Nothing that bad happened in San Joaquin County although shoplifting is getting more brazen and less likely to be prosecuted.

It struck a chord, though, within the county.

Remember, San Joaquin County is home of the original catch and release approach to crime. A quarter of a century ago due to a court-ordered capacity at a woefully inadequate jail facility the odds of you staying off the street for anything short of murder, rape, or severe violence charges were almost nil.

Yes, there are a  lot of folks that don’t recall the good old days when there were 798 car thefts a year in Manteca — three times the current level — because those arrested for vehicle theft beat the police back to Manteca.

The criminals got processed out and onto the street while police were saddled with hours of paperwork they had to do.

That and the new level of brazen lawlessness with “low level” crimes in the jurisdictions where the poster boys for processive justice —  Boudin and Gascon — called the shots for prosecuting criminals created a perception that stuck with Verber Salazar.

The perception was progressive justice seemed a fancy word for what happened in the early days of Dodge City where a dearth of law fostered little order.

Should Freitas win, he likely won’t drop Verber Salazar’s approach to the homeless. 

And he’s likely to go back to doubling down on proven programs that help reduce recidivism and ultimately crime.

The perception created by the reality in San Francisco and Los Angeles did not bode well for Verber Salazar.

 The reality in San Francisco did in Boudin who was recalled last week.

The reality in LA may also lead to a recall of Gascon.

The perception created when Verber Salazar aligned herself with Gascon and Boudin may end up dragging her down.

It is doubtful the reform movement is dead even though that is now the perception of some.

The reality is that it does work but not carte blanche.


This column is the opinion of editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinions of The Bulletin or 209 Multimedia. He can be reached at