An aerial view of the city of San Francisco skyline and the Golden Gate Bridge in California, U.S., October 28, 2021.
An aerial view of the city of San Francisco skyline and the Golden Gate Bridge in California, U.S., October 28, 2021. Reuters / CARLOS BARRIA

Voters in San Francisco are poised to recall the city's progressive district attorney, Chesa Boudin, on Tuesday in what has become a nationally watched test of frustrations over rising crime.

Boudin has been the target of a multi-million-dollar recall campaign by residents who say the liberal California enclave has become an increasingly unsafe place to live. Polls show strong support for the recall.

Many of its backers are Democrats in a city where Republicans are a distinct minority. But the election has ramifications beyond San Francisco, with national polls showing Americans increasingly worried about violent crime.

Republicans hope to seize upon that anxiety in their bid to assume control of the U.S. Congress in the November midterm elections. Republican-backed ads are already running in states such as North Carolina and Wisconsin addressing fears of rising crime.

The concerns in San Francisco resemble those in other large cities in the United States, where gun violence spiked during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Boudin was elected in 2019 promising to institute criminal justice reforms designed to keep low-level offenders from jail and spare juveniles from facing long prison terms. His critics blame those policies for an uptick in murders, shootings and property crimes, as well as an increase in hate crimes against Asian Americans.

His defenders say the spike was a function of the pandemic and note that crime is reverting to norms that existed beforehand. They contend the city's swelling homeless population has distorted some residents' perceptions of security.

The recall effort is San Francisco's second this year. In February, voters ousted three members of the city's school board.

Downstate in Los Angeles, public safety is the leading issue in the city's mayoral contest on Tuesday.

Rick Caruso, a former Republican, and Democrat Karen Bass, a top progressive in Congress, are expected to win the bulk of the votes in the primary. If neither receives a majority of the vote, they would face off in a run-off election in November.