The first challenger to enter next year’s race against Bucks County District Attorney Matthew Weintraub is a veteran prosecutor who previously worked alongside him.

Antonetta Stancu, 42, formally announced her candidacy on Monday, with a statement promising a platform of criminal justice reform.

“I have seen firsthand how the American dream that my parents were able to achieve has slipped away for many in our community,” said Stancu, the daughter of immigrants from Romania.

“It’s time to address the mental health issues that have resulted in an increase in crime rates, recidivism, and drug abuse,” she added. “We must truly fight the opioid epidemic, attack gun violence, fight environmental hazards, end elder abuse, and improve our criminal justice policies.”

Stancu, a native of Bucks County, previously served as an assistant district attorney in New York City and a federal prosecutor in Texas. In 2011, she was appointed as a special prosecutor in Montgomery County, leading the criminal case against former county commissioner Jim Matthews for perjury and lying to authorities.

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A year later, she joined the Bucks County District Attorney’s Office, where she oversaw several notable cases, including that of David Surman, who planted bombs in rural areas of the county in the middle of the night; a violent double homicide during a roving gun battle last March in Bristol Township; and the conviction of a man who sent a ricin-laced birthday card to his romantic rival.

Stancu was one of two prosecutors from Bucks County who were brought in to assist former Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman in the case against former Attorney General Kathleen Kane in 2015 for perjury and obstruction of justice.

Stancu left Weintraub’s office late this summer and established Schatz & Stancu, LLP, a criminal defense firm in Doylestown.

In that work, she said, “I built a reputation for being tough but fair. As a defense attorney, I am proud to protect the rights of defendants.”

Her decision to enter the DA’s race will pit Stancu, a Democrat, against her former boss, a Republican who is the county’s only GOP row officer.

Weintraub, 52, has served as the county’s top prosecutor since 2016 and presided over the prosecution of some of the most high-profile crimes in county history.

When four young Bucks County men went missing in 2017, Weintraub drew national media attention as authorities spent days searching for them and later, after their bodies were found buried on a remote Solebury Township farm.

He remained in the spotlight as his office won the conviction of cousins Cosmo DiNardo and Sean Kratz.

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In 2019, when police made the grisly, early-morning discovery of five bodies inside a Morrisville apartment, Weintraub’s office prosecuted mother and daughter Shana and Dominique Decree.

More recently, Weintraub’s office closed three significant cold-case prosecutions, including the conviction of William Korzon in the 1981 death of his wife, Gloria.

A former assistant district attorney, Weintraub took the top job after his boss, David Heckler retired in 2016 and won election the following year. Weintraub’s reelection bid will be closely watched amid the changing political landscape in the region.

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Bucks County, a longtime Republican stronghold, has gradually shifted Democratic in the last four years: 52% of the county cast ballots for Joe Biden in this year’s presidential election.

Weintraub is the only Republican district attorney in the Pennsylvania suburbs surrounding Philadelphia, after historic wins in 2019 by Democrats in Chester and Delaware Counties.