Home NEWS Local Scene Making Their Cases – District Attorney’s Race Highlights Divisions In Approaches

Making Their Cases – District Attorney’s Race Highlights Divisions In Approaches

Diana Becton, left, and Mary Knox

A hotly contested race between two candidates vying for the county’s top prosecutor seat has hardened existing divisions in local law enforcement and illuminated the stark contrast in approaches to some of the toughest problems facing society today.

Whether incumbent Diana Becton survives a challenge by former prosecutor and colleague Mary Knox will have to wait until June to be decided, but for now the pair is pushing hard to get their messages across to prospective voters – speaking at public venues and debates and fencing via social media.

Becton incurred the anger of County Sheriff David Livingston after her office charged and convicted one of his deputies following two fatal, officer-involved shootings in Danville, a town patrolled under contract by the sheriff’s deputies.

“For our district attorney to charge a deputy sheriff, or any peace officer, for a crime based on a split-second tactical decision is abhorrent,” Livingston wrote in a controversial email to his deputies. “It is even more abhorrent for that same district attorney to later repost photos on her reelection campaign social media that show her smiling and proclaiming that she “charged the officer.” Despite these odd times, please remember I appreciate the work all of you do; I respect your sacrifice and commitment to the community we serve, and most importantly, I have your back.”

Derided as polarizing by some, the email dramatically illustrates the current divide in thought and theory among law enforcement circles – as well as the usually unstated opposition to Becton and her progressive positions. That division was further dramatized when every police union in the county came out for Knox, contributors giving her a substantial fundraising advantage of more than $100,000.

Becton, for her part, enjoys the endorsement of the state Democratic Party, other progressive-minded DAs across the state and a myriad of elected officials who have supported her efforts to make the criminal justice system fair for all.

Her policies include prioritized diversion for lower-level offenses such as drug possession, moving to close juvenile hall, analysis of her office’s charging protocols with an eye toward reducing racial bias, and a fledgling program designed to reduce excessive sentencing.

Knox, an aggressive courtroom tactician with 37 years experience prosecuting the county’s gang members, has characterized Becton as soft on crime – words that carry extra weight among residents and potential voters weary of takeover retail thefts, prolific catalytic converter mining, and recent murders.

Appointed district attorney in 2017 when her predecessor resigned in disgrace after pleading no contest to felony perjury, Becton had served as a presiding judge for 22 years.

In 2020, Knox and three other women in the office sued Becton, claiming she’d promoted less experienced male colleagues over them. Knox also appealed Becton’s decision to demote her and filed complaints with the county’s merit board, which sided with Knox last year.


  1. When crime was not rampant the public favored leniency. Leniency engendered higher crime. It’s a cycle which repeats with a period of several decades.

    Our justice system exists primarily to protect the law-abiding from criminals. It is currently failing to do so.

    Elected officials take the blame for what happens, regardless of fault. That’s not completely fair, but it beats non-accountability.

  2. If I have to choose between the candidate endorsed by the Democratic Party or the candidate endorsed by Law Enforcement, I choose the latter. Every single time. I’m casting my vote for Mary Knox.

  3. Still undecided but leaning toward Ms Becton as I believe change in the judicial system is needed. I understand the frustration many appear to feel regarding the lack of jail time for repeat offenders but I also think that will change once restrictions imposed by the pandemic ease.

  4. “every police union in the county came out for Knox”. This just emphasizes the need for reform as police unions never saw a police shooting they disapproved. I’m all in favor of good policing and not a knee-jerk return to the status quo. The DA’s office was apparently a mess before Becton took over. I favor giving her the time to seek meaningful reform. We are all in this together. Liberal or conservative, nobody likes crime. Vote your preference.

    • Nope, not willing to get robbed/shot while waiting for Becton’ s political and social agenda to play out. Her job is to protect the citizens of Contra Costa. She is simply not willing to do it.

  5. ”Meanwhile, a pro-criminal justice reform group backed by billionaire George Soros has piped more than $400,000 into an independent campaign to reelect Becton and fend off attacks from her challenger — and colleague — Deputy District Attorney Mary Knox.”
    Hopefully, one day, large campaign contributions from outsiders trying to control local elections are deemed improper and outlawed.

  6. Well, every Crusade needs a supervillain to thwart, but that supervillain suit looks a little baggy and a little tired on nonagenerian Soros.

  7. The Sheriffs department should be dissolved. You have a better chance of seeing a flying unicorn than a Sheriff patrol in any unincorporated CCC area other than Danville and Alamo.

    I would rather keep my tax dollars and defend myself.

    • Robert Hale is living in a box. You really think crime will reduce once all covid restrictions are lifted? Everyone is already acting as if the restrictions don’t exist. Lol

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