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Trumpadelphia: Election Day, and you-know-who is (sort of) on the ballot

All politics is local, except when its not. President Trump looms over elections for Philly DA, governor of New Jersey and other important races.

DA candidate Larry Krasner, center, talks with Sen. Anthony H. Williams, right, at Relish restaurant on election day in Philadelphia, PA on November 7, 2017.
DA candidate Larry Krasner, center, talks with Sen. Anthony H. Williams, right, at Relish restaurant on election day in Philadelphia, PA on November 7, 2017.Read moreDAVID MAIALETTI / Staff Photographer

Good morning, pals. I hope you're voting today! Exercise that civic duty! Shape the future of our city! Get those sweet, sweet "I Voted" stickers!

This newsletter covers President Trump and how his policies affect greater Philadelphia. You can sign up here to get it in your inbox, for free, every week. You can send suggestions/complaints/questions my way by email or on Twitter, and if you like this newsletter, please forward it to a friend!

Aubrey Whelan

 Today, let’s talk about the election.

What’s at stake

All politics is local, the old chestnut goes. But today all politics is national — everything from our hometown DA race to gubernatorial elections have become bellwethers on the viability of Trumpism.

In New Jersey, voters are selecting Gov. Chris "Meatloaf" Christie's replacement; in Virginia, President Trump himself has been weighing in on a very tight gubernatorial race where Republicans have been running racially charged ads about immigration and Confederate monuments. (New Jersey's Republican candidate Kim Guadagno ran a similar ad of her own on immigration last month.) And here in Philadelphia, District Attorney candidate Larry Krasner, a former civil rights defense attorney, has been running an explicitly anti-Trump campaign for months.

The local angle 

Krasner would be a sea change for Philly: easily the most progressive candidate in the Democratic primaries, he pulled the entire race to the left with pledges to end cash bail and the death penalty and the office's scandal-plagued civil forfeiture unit. He's railed against mass incarceration. He's for safe injection sites. He gained national attention when he won the primaries — but his campaign, from the beginning, took on national tones. His campaign platform has a section called "Resist the Trump Administration" with proposals to support sanctuary city policies and push back against the heavy sentencing, war-on-drugs era policies DOJ head Jeff Sessions advocates for.

In this Democratic town, Krasner is probably a lock for DA, though critics have knocked his lack of prosecutorial experience. His Republican opponent, Beth Grossman, who ran the aforementioned civil forfeiture unit, has run a fairly mainstream tough-on-crime campaign, though she does share some views with Krasner, like supporting an end to cash bail. But she won't say whether she voted for Trump, and many of her endorsers, most notably FOP President John McNesby (who called Black Lives Matter protesters "rabid animals" earlier this year) are decidedly Trumpian.

What’s ahead

Local politicians in this town tend to talk a big game about standing up to Trump — but what can they actually do? (A perpetual question for this newsletter.) Krasner says a DA's prosecutorial discretion can go a long way toward bucking federal policy — in an interview with me in September, he cited the Brooklyn DA office's policy of trying to avoid deporting undocumented immigrants charged with certain non-violent crimes.

Krasner, for his part, has tried to downplay the Trump effect in his own race — on Monday he credited some of his rise to the groundswell of support for progressive candidates like Bernie Sanders, which pre-dates Trump. Like it or not, though, as long as Trump is president, he'll be inserted into every race that can stand him. For progressives, he's a perfect bogeyman; for conservatives looking to court his passionate base, a Trump loyalty pledge goes a long way.

What they are saying

"…Americans do what we do best: we pull together. We join hands. We lock arms and through the tears and the sadness, we stand strong…" — President Trump, on Sunday, responding to a mass shooting at a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas that left 24 dead, including several children.

"May God also grant all of us the wisdom to ask what concrete steps we can take to reduce the violence and weaponry in our midst." — former President Barack Obama, on Twitter, responding to the shooting.

"If this man did not have a gun or rifle it would have been a much worse situation in the great state of Texas." — President Trump, a day later, that tougher gun laws could have killed "hundreds" more in Texas had armed civilians not pursued the gunman. (The shooter was killed by a self-inflicted gunshot.)

In other news…

  1. The full transcript of former Trump aide Carter Page's testimony to the House Intelligence Committee, released last night, is a real trip and I recommend reading it if you have a patient soul and a quiet evening at home. Or you could just read the various highlight roundups out there — the main takeaway is that Page confirmed he'd met with Russian government officials during the campaign despite telling the media otherwise for months.

  2. Here is the Inquirer's election guide to everything getting voted on today — yes, the DA's race is flashy, but voting in down-ballot races is important, too, and the flush of civic engagement you'll get is worth it. (Or maybe that's just me.)

  3. The enrollment period to sign up for Obamacare started last week — as the Trump administration has cut the enrollment period in half, slashed advertising and attempted to dismantle the law through executive orders. I wrote about what it's like to try to convince people to sign up for it anyway.

What I’m reading

  1. My colleague Peter Dobrin, the Inquirer's classical music critic, wrote this stunning piece on art in the age of Trump that you really have to read to the end.

  2. My colleague John Baer, railing against the idea of voting for a judge at all, nonetheless shows you how to do your civic duty today in Pennsylvania's judicial elections.

  3. The New Yorker reflects on Virginia's increasingly ugly gubernatorial race.