Philadelphia News & Search
Could the May 16 Democratic primary election for District Attorney resemble the party’s primary for mayor two years ago?
Larry Krasner, a civil rights lawyer, picked up the much sought-after endorsements Monday of several ward leaders and elected officials from “the Northwest Coalition,” known for their reliability in turning out voters on Election Day.
Chief among them is former City Councilwoman Marian Tasco, who helped propel Mayor Kenney to office when the coalition — which represents predominantly African-American neighborhoods — backed him in the 2015 six-candidate primary.
Tasco told a crowd gathered in front of the District Attorney’s Office that she didn’t know Krasner until he came to the 50th Ward, which she leads, to discuss his career as a defense attorney.
“I like him because I care about people having a fair shot,” Tasco said. “Some people are going to go away [to jail] but they will have a fair shot at giving up their story.”
Tasco was joined by State Rep. Isabella Fitzgerald, who heads the 10th Ward, City Council members Cherelle Parker and Maria Quinones Sanchez, and 42nd Ward Leader Elaine Tomlin.
Krasner’s campaign has something else that played a role in the 2015 election — an outside group spending big on his behalf.
Philadelphia Justice & Public Safety, a political action committee that registered last week and then pumped $280,000 into a first week of television advertising in support of Krasner, is spending another $292,000 for a second week of ads, starting Wednesday.
The PAC is expected to be funded by billionaire George Soros, who has been investing heavily in district attorney races around the county since 2015.
An existing PAC, Building a Better Pennsylvania, has also reserved $121,000 in airtime for ads expected to start Tuesday in support of former Assistant District Attorney Jack O’Neill.
That PAC, first launched by Local 98 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and other building trades unions in 2014, backed Kenney for mayor in 2015.
O’Neill, after a candidate forum at Temple University Monday, said he had no knowledge of the PAC’s investment.
“I hope they’re nice to me,” he joked.
Such PACs can spend well above the city’s campaign finance limits as long as they don’t coordinate efforts with a candidate or campaign.
Joe Khan, a former city and federal prosecutor, spent $100,000 on three days of television ads that ended Monday and is expected to spend a similar amount for commercials starting again Tuesday.
Former city Managing Director Rich Negrin and former city and state prosecutor Michael Untermeyer, each put about $100,000 into television ads that start airing Wednesday.
Untermeyer became the first candidate to start airing television ads five weeks ago.
Name recognition from those ads and support from ward leaders will be crucial in what is typically a low voter-turnout election, especially since the candidates have been to multiple of forums and appear aligned in agreement on many issues, such as ending cash bail for nonviolent offenders, treatment for drug addiction rather than incarceration and working to help inmates released from prison re-enter society with training, education and jobs.
It was unclear Monday if the other two Democratic candidates, former First Assistant District Attorney Tariq El-Shabazz and former Municipal Court Judge Teresa Carr Deni, will have the resources to air television commercials.
Tasco, asked by a reporter from a radio station with a predominately African-American audience, why her group didn’t support El-Shabazz, the only black candidate, replied that she had met with him and found him to be smart but preferred Krasner.
“That’s what I made my decision on, not color but what I thought the character of the DA’s Office should be,” she said.
Philadelphia News & Search