The main battle is a test of whether the left can maintain its successful campaign to elect progressive district attorneys amid an increase in murders in cities across the country. If Krasner wins, it could signal the arrival of a new era, in which the public does not shy away from liberal criminal justice policy – even as crime statistics rise. If he fails, it would be a jolt to the politically besieged police unions, and a sudden stop to what has been a constant shift to the left in urban DA races.
“His re-election means everything,” said Shaun King, a civil rights activist and former presidential campaign deputy for Bernie Sanders. “We always knew that Larry, a longtime civil rights lawyer, would come and change the system from within and that would make him a major target.
Krasner is not the only progressive large-city prosecutor to meet fierce resistance. In California, San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin and Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascón are facing recall efforts. Opponents of the left-wing ADs accused them of letting criminals get lost in the streets and turning a blind eye to the victims – all criticism has been leveled at Krasner as well.
Krasner designed his re-election campaign as a choice between the future and the past, “a past that echoes names like [Frank] Rizzo, ”the former mayor of Philly, tough on crime and racially polarizing, as he put it at a recent candidate forum. He says he kept his election promises by reducing the prison population, exonerating the innocent and reducing the length of probation and parole.
He took a turn against his Democratic challenger – former homicide prosecutor Carlos Vega, who was part of the group of employees he fired when he became DA – which might have been unthinkable in the past. Krasner uses the local police union as a foil and reminds voters that Vega is endorsed by the local chapter of the Fraternal Order of the Police, whose national union endorsed former President Donald Trump.
As for the surge in homicides – they are up 29% from this period in 2020, which was the most violent year in three decades – Krasner accuses greater societal forces.
“What has happened, and essentially all criminologists agree, is that the pandemic, the closure of society and the closure of so many different aspects of what protects and surrounds especially young men are gone. Krasner said in an interview. “So in every city you have the elimination of high school kids in classrooms at least for periods of time, summer camps, summer job programs, open swimming pools, recreation centers open, organized sports at school, organized sports outside of school and after-school programs. “
To show how far the Democratic Party has moved to the left on criminal justice issues, Vega doesn’t actually campaign as a tough politician against crime. He talks about diversion and cash bail prohibitions for low-level offenders, and his website promises to deliver “real progressive reform.” His argument in his launch video is that “we don’t have to choose between security and reform,” and he puts the wave of killings squarely on Krasner’s shoulders.
“I think a lot of people want sensible reform,” he told POLITICO. “They want that middle ground where we are aware that communities of color suffer the most when it comes to violence, but also communities of color suffer the most when it comes to lack of opportunity.”
Murders increased last year in cities large and small across the country, suggesting that local explanations alone cannot explain the phenomenon. When asked if it was right to blame Krasner in the midst of a national trend, Vega said that “the problem is what happens to our community, our city – it can’t and I can’t fix it. all the evils occurring in the country.
But Krasner’s approach of refusing to accept any blame has rubbed some voters and party officials the wrong way.
Politically influential Democratic leaders who refused to endorse Krasner were frustrated that “there is an epidemic of gun violence here, everyone has been affected by it, and Krasner takes no responsibility,” a familiar person said. with their meeting with the prosecutor.
Sometimes the elections have become personal. Vega, who is Latino, called Krasner comparing him to Trump “really rich … when it comes from a white, elite person, from an Ivy League school.” Krasner said Vega had never championed reform in the attorney general’s office and was “doing what all kinds of people do during election cycles – that is, they’ll say anything. , they will read the polls first ”.
Krasner’s campaign said he made more than $ 420,000 in the first three months of the year, while Vega’s team said he raised nearly $ 340,000. In 2020, Vega kept pace with Krasner’s fundraising.
When Krasner first showed up, a super PAC funded primarily by liberal billionaire George Soros spent nearly $ 1.7 million supporting him. Some political insiders in Philadelphia have said Soros’ decision to get involved again could have a big impact on the race.
Others believe Krasner is unlikely to be ousted for being the incumbent president, and primaries often attract more progressive voters than general elections. In this deep blue town, the district attorney is actually determined to primary. No public poll was published during the race.
Krasner expressed confidence in his prospects for the May 18 primary, highlighting the re-election of other liberal prosecutors across the country such as Cook County State Attorney Kim Foxx and State Attorney. from Baltimore, Marilyn Mosby. He does not fear a 1990s revival of the ethics of crime suppression due to the recent gun violence.