Prosecutor officially challenges Santa Clara County DA
Daniel Chung is running for Santa Clara County District Attorney. File photo by Lloyd Alaban.

    Deputy district attorney Daniel Chung has officially announced his candidacy to lead the Santa Clara County DA’s Office.

    Chung confirmed on Tuesday he filed his papers to run for DA in the 2022 election. He told San José Spotlight the theme of his campaign is restoring justice and that it focuses on three pillars: integrity, competence and compassion.

    “I do think there is a fundamental lack of integrity, competence and compassion when it comes to the way (DA Jeff Rosen) runs the office,” Chung said. “He has had plenty of time to change the system, to reform, to update, to move our county in different directions, and I think what voters are seeing is that for most part he hasn’t done that.”

    Rosen, who took office in 2010, has run unopposed in his previous two re-election campaigns.

    “I’m proud to present to voters a long record of prosecuting violent criminals, advocating for victims and reforming the criminal justice system to be safer, smarter and more equitable for everyone,” Rosen said in a statement to San José Spotlight.

    Chung floated the idea of running back in August, saying he wants to fix various problems in the DA’s office, such as updating case management software and providing better training on charging crimes. He also wants to prioritize gathering overwhelming evidence before the office prosecutes cases and drastically reduce the number of misdemeanor cases being filed.

    “We’re going to put a stop to bad prosecutions,” Chung said, adding he wants to focus on violent, serious crimes that pose the greatest threat to public wellbeing. “We want to focus on those crimes to make sure public safety is being retained.”

    Chung is the second challenger to enter the race following Sajid Khan, a longtime public defender who launched his campaign in August.

    Chung said he respects Khan professionally and personally, but believes he doesn’t have the experience necessary to run the office.

    “Sajid has never prosecuted a case in his life,” Chung said. “Obviously Sajid knows a lot about the criminal justice system, but being a prosecutor is a totally different sphere.”

    Khan said he welcomes Chung to the race because it’s healthy for the county to have a wide spectrum of candidates and views to choose from. With more than 13 years of experience as a public defender, Khan said he is uniquely qualified to change the DA’s office.

    “The status quo is not working,” Khan told San José Spotlight. “So I believe it is actually an added qualification for me that I’m not a career prosecutor. Especially a career prosecutor in the very office we’re seeking to transform.”

    Chung, who grew up in Milpitas, cut his teeth as a prosecutor at the district attorney’s office in New York’s Bronx County where he prosecuted gun crimes. He joined the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office in 2018 and served in the violent felonies unit.

    Although Khan and Rosen have publicly sparred in the past, it doesn’t come close to the level of acrimony between Chung and Rosen.

    Chung was disciplined and then placed on administrative leave in May after he wrote an unauthorized op-ed raising concerns about the rise in anti-Asian violence, and then more articles critical of the DA’s office. He publicly accused office leadership of retaliating against him for his articles, including issuing two “be on the lookout notices”—otherwise known as BOLOs—after he was placed on leave. Chung said this violated his confidentiality by alerting the entire office about his employment matter.

    Another wrinkle in the race is the fact that Chung recently sued the DA for retaliation. The suit, filed in federal court last month, accuses Rosen of violating Chung’s freedom of speech by disciplining and demoting him after he wrote an opinion piece. Chung’s lawyer, Jim McManis, claims the alleged retaliation is part of a pattern and practice in Rosen’s office. The case is still pending and Chung declined to speak about it.

    Chung acknowledged he’s an underdog compared to Khan and Rosen, but said he plans to run a vigorous grassroots campaign. He noted that Rosen managed to unseat his boss, Dolores Carr, 10 years ago in a campaign that relied on many of the same themes Chung plans to emphasize in the coming months.

    “I think voters will finally get an opportunity next year to really dig into his performance and his values, and to make a declaration of whether they want to see those things continue in our county,” Chung said.

    Contact Eli Wolfe at [email protected] or @EliWolfe4 on Twitter.

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