Santa Clara County’s District Attorney will face his first challenger after a decade-long tenure, as candidates officially kick off their 2022 campaigns for top prosecutor.
District Attorney Jeff Rosen will appear on ballots along with Sajid Khan, a Santa Clara County deputy public defender since 2008, if both declared candidates follow through.
The elected position has come under renewed attention after George Floyd’s murder as the District Attorney sets the tone for local law enforcement and advocates public policy for the criminal justice system.
Rosen, who gained office by launching an insurgent campaign against a sitting DA and has cast himself as a reformer, blasted his email announcement Thursday evening, officially confirming his bid for a fourth consecutive term, if he is reelected in 2022.
Rosen’s news squeaked ahead of his opponent’s kickoff event; Khan confirmed his campaign Sunday at his rally at Ryland Park in downtown San Jose—a long awaited announcement after staying mum for months, following calls from reform advocates to enter the DA’s race. He launched his campaign website as well, touting endorsements from former Congressman Mike Honda and former judge and San Jose Police Auditor LaDoris Cordell.
“For the last 13 years, I have been a public defender serving our community, fighting against mass incarceration, and standing up for our constitutional rights, the humanity of our people and for values of compassion and redemption,” Khan said in a statement. “As District Attorney, I will honor victims of crimes, hold police accountable when they violate the law, tell the truth about and undo systemic racism, manifest Black Lives Matter, and bring our criminal legal system in line with basic notions of justice and humanity.”
Born and raised in San Jose, Khan attended San Jose High School, UC Berkeley and UC Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco, before returning to the South Bay to work in the public defender’s office. Since then, Khan has been vocal in a swath of criminal justice issues in Santa Clara County, including removal of police officers from school campuses, halting the opening of a new county jail and increasing accountability for fatal encounters and uses of force by police.
The San Jose Police Officers' Association has already begun spending to highlight Khan’s calls to defund police departments, launching a website that it promoted with purchased advertisements on San Jose Inside.
Rosen boasts endorsements from more than 60 elected officials and hundreds of community and law enforcement leaders across Santa Clara County, including all sitting county supervisors, Assemblyman Evan Low, San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo and Dallas Police Chief Eddie Garcia, who previously headed San Jose’s department.
Rosen, a former deputy prosecutor with the office he now heads, was first elected in 2010, defeating one-term incumbent Dolores Carr. He ran again in 2014 and 2018 unopposed.
Since 2010, Rosen has welcomed jail population reduction, diversion programs for non-violent offenders, the end of cash bail and expungements for low-level drug crimes. Some reforms—zero dollar bail, early release—were implemented to manage Covid risks by reducing overcrowding.
Rosen landed on Governor Gavin Newsom’s shortlist to become the state’s Attorney General position, after Xavier Becerra was appointed United States Secretary of Health and Human Services. The AG appointment went to former Assemblyman Rob Bonta.
“For the last ten years, my team and I have worked hard to bend the arc toward justice in Santa Clara County,” Rosen wrote in a statement. “Public safety for all cannot exist without equality for all. Today, Santa Clara County’s criminal justice system is fairer, and our neighborhoods are safer.”
Last year his office filed felony bribery and conspiracy charges against political supporters of Sheriff Laurie Smith after an investigation sparked by an illegal contribution discovered by Metro Silicon Valley. Prosecutors believe that concealed carry weapons permits were expedited for applicants who contributed to a pro-Sheriff independent campaign fund or donated technology to the department.
The weapons permit case has not gone smoothly for Rosen, however. Charges filed against Apple’s head of security were dismissed by a judge who cited lack of evidence. Rosen is also fighting his disqualification by Sixth District Court of Appeals because of conflicts of interest with one of the defendants, who alleged in filings that Rosen targeted the sheriff’s inner circle because she wouldn’t permit warrantless eavesdropping on jailhouse telephone calls.
Rosen’s critics have zeroed in on some of his policies, including his challenge of legislation that prohibited trying 14- and 15-year-olds accused of serious crimes as adults, as well as his opposition to the 2018 recall of Judge Aaron Persky, who was voted off the bench after his lenient sentencing in the sexual assault conviction of Stanford University swimmer Brock Turner.
Rosen and Khan are well acquainted.
After Khan, who represents adults and juveniles facing charges in court, published an op-ed about how protesters against disparate police brutality should include DAs along with grievances against police departments, Rosen filed (and later withdrew) a whistleblower complaint.
A letter from 650 public defenders supported Khan’s actions.
Khan is no stranger to sharing his political beliefs, most recently detailing his views on “progressive prosecution” in the Stanford Journal of Civil Rights & Civil Liberties in February 2021.