At 10 o’clock on Tuesday night it seemed the election was decided. The end of the night was nearing and Larry Krasner was already ahead with eighty percent of the votes in.
The progressive defense attorney who had never been in the DA’s office found himself as the winner in the race to be chief prosecutor by the end of the night with 38.1 percent of the seven-candidate race.
But the question of whether Krasner was a true underdog comes into question when comparing the money that was indirectly invested in his campaign to that of his opponents.
In April, billionaire George Soros wrote a check for $1.45 million to fund the political action committee that backed Krasner’s campaign.
The group, Philadelphia Justice & Public Safety, spent close to half of the money, $719,961, on television commercials, campaign literature, and online ads in a matter of four days that month.
And to many candidates, the money mattered.
Rich Negrin, a popular candidate with a significant number of endorsements, hinted at the possibility that the election could be bought, “This election proves that money matters, you know? Significant money,” said Negrin. “When you have outside sources come in and put in about 1.7 million into the race it’s hard to compete with that on the local level. We did a great job, raised close to $600,000 all by ourselves.”
Negrin, who raised roughly $600,000 with his team, fell behind Krasner and democratic DA candidate Joe Khan, with 14.2 percent of the votes.
But if money was the sole driver of the race for district attorney the results would have come out differently.
After Krasner, who insists that the money from Soros was never directly provided to him or his campaign and that any commercials were run without his approval, the next highest earner in the campaign is that of Michael Untermeyer.
Untermeyer’s total loan to his campaign neared $1 million in April after an additional loan of $400,000 from the former candidate entered into his campaign.And yet, Untermeyer’s support in the election was underwhelming with only roughly 12,000 votes for him in the ballot boxes.
In addition to his donations, Untermeyer was also one of the candidates with a clear experience as a prosecutor. He was formerly a city and state prosecutor similar to Khan who had experience as a city and federal prosecutor.
Krasner, who has never been a prosecutor, didn’t see this as a challenge though. He told reporters at a press conference on Wednesday that he would not have to change tactics to switch from a defence attorney to a prosecutor and that his choice of practice was a matter of differing attitudes, “I chose to be a public defender in Philadelphia because my beliefs - including my belief that the death penalty should never be pursued - were inconsistent with the office here at that time and ever since,” said Krasner.
But Krasner has a new vision for the district attorney’s office, “It will be an office that will be interested in justice in a global blind sense.”
Krasner stated that his mission once in office - should he win in November - will have a very direct agenda with the ending of the death penalty at the top of the list. Following that would be recruiting talent from all of to “change the culture of [the] organization,” followed by ending mass incarceration by changing the priority of those who are incarcerated.
His agenda is not supported by some police unions including the Fraternal Order of the Police, who endorsed Richard Negrin.
John McNesby, the president of the organization, called Krasner’s candidacy “hilarious.”
But Krasner does not seem concerned about the comments,The good news is that the person who gives instructions to police officers is the police commissioner and the police commissioner before him,” said Krasner.
He went on to say that the perceived tension between himself and McNesby would not affect his relationships with the police stating, “I understand that the FOP endorsed a different candidate and I understand that their candidate did not win. [...] I do not believe that this police department has been hijacked by anyone who could tell them not to do their jobs.”
Krasner will continue his campaign into November where he will face Republican candidate Beth Grossman for the district attorney seat.