Growing up in a family with prominent elected officials and lawyers, Joe Alioto Veronese knew the right steps to take.
Her grandfather, Joseph Alioto, was the 35th mayor of San Francisco, and her mother, Angela Alioto, served as chairman of the board of supervisors. Michela Alioto-Pier, Veronese’s cousin and the last member of the Alioto family to hold elected office in the city, was also twice elected supervisor.
After serving in several important positions, including police and fire commissions, Veronese, a lawyer and City Hall veteran, decided to challenge District Attorney Brooke Jenkins.
As DA, Alioto Veronese says he would use a “21st century criminal justice system” to “save” San Francisco. He also criticizes Breed’s ties to Jenkins, and says he has a unique idea for holding SFPD accountable.
The standard interviewed Veronese and this is part of a series of DA candidate profile features. Below is a transcript of the conversation, edited for clarity and length.
You were among the first to throw your hat in the ring, five months before Boudin was recalled. How has your campaign evolved since then?
I’m very good. The problem with campaigns is that you want to peak at the right time, and that right time is when the ballots come out and the voters actually vote.
We’ve been fundraising since February for the 2023 election. So now we’re fundraising for this year’s election. This resets the limits for my donors, and it actually worked to my advantage. However, even the limit is $500; wealthy people who want to donate to campaigns are simply spending independently. That’s what I’m fighting in this election: the independent spending that was behind Boudin’s recall.
It looks like you also wanted to show up for DA in 2019, but didn’t. What happened?
In fact, I filed for office in 2019, and within weeks I was made aware of a bill the board of supervisors was in the process of putting in place. They had done polls and they didn’t like the way I polled. So they made a bill that prohibited any sitting commissioner from running, and that only applied to one person, and that was me. So they forced me not to vote at the time.
But this time they can’t because I’m not the acting commissioner anymore, and I’m here to save San Francisco.
You belong to a political dynasty. Did you grow up thinking of becoming a politician?
No, I never considered myself a politician.
I am very proud of the work done by my family. We are civil servants. In the end, if you get rich in public office, there’s something very bad about you, something very corrupt about you.
I ran for state senate in 2008. I’m not doing it for me, I’m not doing it for selfish reasons.
Do you think your name will help you in this campaign?
There is some name recognition, absolutely.
But I’m a different version of my mother, Angela Alioto, who cared a lot about this city. We would be in another city today if she had been elected mayor. I am a different version of my grandfather.
But certainly I have some of the qualities, some of the compassion that she had, and I had also learned a tremendous amount from my grandfather. Ultimately, I am Joe Alioto Veronese, and I am here to serve the people of San Francisco and to change San Francisco in a way that serves us all.
In your application, you said you are a civil rights lawyer. Can you highlight some of the cases you have handled?
I have been practicing for about 22 years representing employees against large corporations, some of which are billions of dollars.
We deal with whistleblower complaints, discrimination complaints. We prove racial animosity in court every day. So for 22 years I’ve faced billion-dollar companies fighting for people, fighting for employees. And it’s very different named DA Brooke Jenkins, who worked for corporations. That’s who I’m running against.
We have a choice here. We can accept the way San Francisco is heading, on this path of despair and doom. Or we can make a change today. We can elect someone with real leadership who is not afraid of the mayor.
You said you know how to prosecute hate crimes, while Boudin and Jenkins said it is difficult to prosecute such charges. What is your solution?
I’ve been doing it for 22 years. I prove racial animosity in cases where people allege they have been discriminated against when you don’t have proof of racial slurs.
Ms. Ren’s case, as well as that of Commissioner Greg Chew, are both hate crimes. And this district attorney doesn’t have the experience or the ability to do that.
Prove racial animosity, which is the hardest thing to do in hate crimes. I have no problem charging hate crimes. I will use every lever at my disposal as Chief District Attorney for the City and County of San Francisco to make sure San Francisco is safe again. And I’ll use hate crimes if I have to.
You supported the Boudin recall and you seem to position yourself as an ally of the SFPD. Where do you stand on the spectrum of reformers and tough guys compared to your opponents?
I did not support Boudin’s recall campaign. I voted for the recall, but I did not support the campaign. This campaign was led by very wealthy Republicans.
I’m not left, I’m not right. I don’t believe in left and right. I think that on every subject, people have their opinion. And on some issues I’m more progressive, and on others I’m not.
SF is in the throes of a drug crisis. On KTVU you mentioned that you will be making mass dealer arrests on your first day as DA, which seems to be more of an SFPD job. What did you mean by that statement?
Well, I disagree with you.
San Francisco’s criminal justice infrastructure is made up of several parts. One of my first steps as district attorney will be to place a ballot measure that places the appointing authority of the chief of police under the district attorney. Under my administration, the police and the chief of police will report to me.
I think the mayor is playing politics with the chief of police. She does her press conferences with the chief, and she plays tough there. But in the end, nothing changes for San Francisco.
You questioned Jenkins’ independence from the mayor. I believe that after the recall, you also asked for the appointment of the prosecutor, didn’t you? What would be the main difference between you and Jenkins as DA?
Yes, it’s true. And there is a huge difference between me and her. The DA currently has a big problem with the truth. And frankly, that’s unacceptable.
I’m from San Francisco, but I didn’t move here [recently]. I was never hired by three nonprofit organizations to work on a campaign to overthrow my former boss. I would never have left a job saying that I had in fact quit, when in fact I was under surveillance for withholding exculpatory evidence in a murder trial.
You can go down to the little things, like her Instagram handle, BrookeJenkinsSF, her name is Union City Brooke Jenkins. She’s not from San Francisco.
What do you think of the state of crime in San Francisco today? Do you feel safe?
I’m a former cop, I feel safe, but that’s me.
My child, most people I know [and] the Chinese community does not feel safe walking in their community. On day one, I will send strong messages that we are not going to tolerate this. If you come to San Francisco to attack our people, we’ll come after you. We were going to do you justice. And if you are a child, we will also sue the parents.
My son was assaulted by two homeless people. Once he was chased out of a park by a homeless man wielding a gun. [And he was] chased down the street with his mother once by a homeless man with a white chair.
We start with public safety, then we work with the legislature, the police commission, the chief of police. We will deliver a 21st century criminal justice system that the people of San Francisco deserve.
Watch our interview with candidate Maurice Chenier.