Nathan Hochman says voters in California are ready to make a change in attorney general, even if it’s for a Republican.
Voters will decide between Hochman, a former federal prosecutor from Los Angeles, and Rob Bonta, the Oakland Assemblyman appointed to attorney general last year by Gov. Gavin Newsom.
Hochman attended a fundraiser in Fresno last Friday, hosted by developer Sevak Khatchadourian. He blasted Bonta’s credentials as a crimefighter.
Bonta was in town two weeks ago at a fundraiser for the Fresno County Young Democrats at the home of prosecutor and former mayoral and congressional candidate Andrew Janz. A request to speak with Bonta at the time was denied by the organizers.
GV Wire spoke to Hochman about crime, and why he thinks he can win. The transcript has been edited for space and clarity.
How does a Republican win state office in California?
Hochman: There is a groundswell of anger, discontent, and frustration up and down California on the one issue that is most associated with the attorney general, which is safety and security. And the person in charge is a person for whom the responsibility lies on his doorstep as to the current conditions that we’re dealing with.
And the second factor is the weak opponent. I would argue that Rob Bonta is the weakest Democratic opponent or candidate in 20 years … Now we have a guy with almost no statewide name recognition, zero law enforcement background compared to my 30 years. And he’s adopted the most pro-criminal agenda of any California attorney general in probably 50 years.
What is difference between you and Rob Bonta?
Hochman: There are three things that I want to do, and he’s basically doing the opposite. The first is, that in order to tackle our toughest criminal issues, the police have to be a partner, which means that you can’t spend all your time vilifying or making them the enemy. Rob Bonta has turned the California attorney general’s office into a police prosecution unit. In other words, his focus is actually on prosecuting the police rather than partnering with the police to prosecute other people who are breaking California’s laws. So I would reverse that priority. It doesn’t mean you give the police a pass. They do cross lines.
The second part is that I believe that if you want a better hired, trained, and supervised police force, you actually have to pay for it rather than defunding the police or cutting their budgets.
And the third part is that I believe all crimes have to have proportionate consequences. Rob Bonta is a big fan … of George Gascon, the LA DA and (recalled) San Francisco DA Chesa Boudin. He believes that you can arrest people in the morning and give them no cash bail, and then they’re out by the afternoon. And somehow that’s going to make us more safe and secure. He thinks that if you don’t bring certain enhancements, like for using a gun or being part of a gang, that will actually make us more safe and more secure rather than less.
The attorney general’s office needs to focus on victims first, not criminals. Rob Bonta just has criminals as the first and foremost goal of his entire agenda.
What can you do in the Central Valley?
Hochman: A lot of the Central Valley’s issues are the same issues that the rest of the California is facing. When it comes to safety and security … you look around downtown Fresno and so many communities that I’ve been in. And homelessness is an enormous problem. Homelessness is a combination problem between enforcement and social services.
I would then partner law enforcement with social services to deal with homeless encampments. So I think the homeless issue is rampant in the Central Valley and is quite candidly, in other sections of California, the whole safety and security issue.
My focus will be on proportional consequences for all crimes. So you won’t have people walking out of a small business stealing just under $950 and not being prosecuted. You won’t have it in California, an attorney general that thinks that the Three Strikes law is unconstitutional and should be overturned. That’s what’s happening actually right now. George Gascon and Rob Bonta are asking the California Supreme Court to overturn it, if you can imagine this, the Three Strikes law.
What should the Attorney General’s role be in prosecuting the tragic family murder case in Merced County?
Hochman: The attorney general should be a partner in helping both local law enforcement — and if the case even rises to the federal authorities — to ensure that both it’s fully investigated, has all the resources necessary to determine all the people involved in the tragic killing. And then help bring that case to justice. So to the extent that that case gets to the court system, the state attorney general should be a player, an active participant, making sure that justice is brought for the victims.
Bonta Has Financial Edge
Bonta maintains the fundraising edge, raising $2.5 million this year through Sept. 24, compared to Hochman’s $1.9 million. Hochman raised more in the last reporting period (July 1-Sept. 24), $791,000 to $679,000 (numbers rounded up).