D.A. Pamela Price delivers fiery rebuke to critics as she launches anti-recall campaign
OAKLAND — In an evening marked by supporters’ well wishes and largely jovial vibes, there were certain moments during Pamela Price’s anti-recall campaign launch when the embattled district attorney channeled frustration that has built up over the past year.
“Those who are trying to overturn the results of the election are trying to destroy public trust,” Price, the first Black woman and progressive reformer to serve as Alameda County’s top prosecutor, told the assembled crowd. “Which means they are a threat to public safety.”
Her speech, delivered privately to supporters at Thursday’s campaign launch, marked the beginning of what promises to be a broader public push to keep her job.
Opponents are actively gathering petition signatures to force a recall election of Price, having raised $212,000 since July from donors that include prominent tech executives, retirees and former prosecutors.
The first-time D.A.’s short tenure has rapidly become the subject of intense public scrutiny in the East Bay and perhaps even a bellwether for whether criminal-justice reform in the U.S. is viable as a genuine policy goal.
Price asserted that because she is busy running the D.A.’s office, her supporters and campaign staffers are the ones who must fend off a recall campaign seeking to push her out of her job.
Voters did not elect her nine months ago, Price said, so that she would make decisions based on emotions stirred up by her opponents — but because she’s a “damn good lawyer.”
To that end, Price acknowledged at the campaign event Thursday that in the ensuing months she will need to “restore public trust,” though she blamed its erosion on a legacy of austere D.A.s before her who aggressively sought maximum sentences and failed to hold law enforcement accountable for wrongdoing.
The Price campaign’s initial anti-recall strategy will focus on distributing materials that encourage people to “decline to sign” recall petitions while deploying “fiction-fact” sheets to address the highest-profile moments of her first year in office.
“D.A. Price did not charge the suspects in the freeway shooting death of toddler Jasper Wu,” reads one item in the “fiction” column, juxtaposed with a statement categorized as “fact”: “The two men whom D.A. Price believes are responsible for the shooting death of toddler Jasper Wu were charged in 2021 with many serious felonies and remain in custody.”
The crowd of supporters at Fluid510, a night club that opened this year in Oakland, included well-known community activists and influential names on Thursday, though no other elected officials were in attendance.
Speakers included Angelique Page, whose son was murdered in Union City back in 2007, and Saabir Lockett, a local activist who served two decades on prison for what was initially a double life sentence.
Rather than parsing Alameda County politics or the D.A.’s policies, the speakers spent their time reinforcing Price’s governing philosophy — that harsh punishments upend communities and disproportionately affect Black people and others of color.
“I just don’t feel that he should spend the rest of his life in prison,” Page said of her son’s killer. “We already lost Vernon. There’s no need for (the killer’s mother) to lose him, too.”
Oakland hip-hop producer Mistah F.A.B., who served as emcee, sought to illustrate the costs of those punishments by reflecting on a childhood friend who’s serving life in prison for killing someone as a teen while trying to steal a pair of Air Jordan sneakers that wouldn’t fit him today.
Filmmaker Danny Glover was listed as a speaker but didn’t make it, while Price said the Marxist scholar and prison abolitionist Angela Davis had sent regards before the campaign launch.
Among the crowd of supporters was Ray Bobbitt, a cofounder of the African-American Sports and Entertainment Group, and Paul Cobb, publisher of Black-owned newspaper the Oakland Post.
Yalanda Madison, the mother of both a murdered son and an incarcerated one, said in an interview that Price had earned her support by forging a personal connection. The two met through Pastor Raymond Lankford, another Oakland community staple in attendance.
“Yes, there are families who have lost loved ones to young people who did terrible, terrible things — and those young people are going to be punished!” Price said. “They’re not getting out of jail scot-free, trust me. They’re going to do 10 years. Ten years is a long time.”
Appearing in good spirits, Price sat at a table with spokespeople for the DA’s office and a newly hired campaign spokesperson, Lance Wilson, who also has handled media for the Anti Police-Terror Project.
Public outrage toward Price has been driven by her office’s unwillingness in many cases to add gun and gang enhancements to criminal sentencings that would dramatically increase the number of years they serve in prison.
Also fueling some of the backlash toward her is the massive turnover of prosecutors in her office. Dozens have quit or been placed on leave and subsequently began criticizing her in the media — voices that especially stand out because Price has given few interviews since taking office.
Separately, concerns about Price grew after this news organization revealed that Cloird, her dating partner and employee, had past run-ins with federal investigators while serving as a regulatory advisor over allegations he had offered to expedite permits in exchange for money.
Price’s campaign staffers are quick to point out that her predecessor, Nancy O’Malley, did not receive similar scrutiny for employing relatives. It’s part of a larger theme of her upcoming campaign: that special attention and criticism are reserved for Black women in powerful positions.
“Today we are faced with people who lost the election. Let’s keep it real,” Price said in reference to supporters of Terry Wiley, her opponent last year. “Your candidate lost, and elections have consequences. And our votes matter.”