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Philly DA Larry Krasner casts Carlos Vega as part of Team Trump

Vega is endorsed by the local chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police, and Krasner keeps bringing up the national union’s endorsement of Trump.

Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner, left, and Democratic primary challenger Carlos Vega, right.
Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner, left, and Democratic primary challenger Carlos Vega, right.Read moreHEATHER KHALIFA; TIM TAI / File Photographs

Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner this week touted his campaign slogan: “Promises made, promises kept.” But he rallied more often with this politically potent point: My opponents are Donald Trump fans!

Krasner appeared Monday in a virtual candidates’ forum hosted by the Philadelphia Bar Association, along with Democratic primary challenger Carlos Vega and Republican Chuck Peruto. Krasner shrugged off Peruto and the November general election, focusing his fire on Vega, a career homicide prosecutor Krasner fired in 2018 when he first took office.

Vega is endorsed by the local chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police, and Krasner repeatedly noted the national union’s endorsement of Trump last year.

Krasner also cited the FOP’s coziness with the Proud Boys, the far-right militant group that the Justice Department has identified as one of the primary culprits in the deadly Jan. 6 Capitol attack. Proud Boys drank beer with Philadelphia police officers last summer after then-Vice President Mike Pence spoke at their Northeast Philly union’s hall.

“Let’s be honest,” Krasner said, “if my Democratic opponent is elected, who will he serve?”

In the prosecution of politics, this was a guilt-by-association verdict.

Krasner also called Vega a “fake Democrat” and said the FOP is “trying to make fake Democrats” by encouraging Republicans to switch parties to vote for Vega in the May 18 primary.

Local FOP president John McNesby chuckled at Krasner’s invocation of Trump.

“He’s still banging the Donald Trump drum?” McNesby asked after the forum. “Donald Trump is gone.”

McNesby confirmed his union is helping Republicans become Democrats to vote for Vega.

“I’m doing whatever I can to support Carlos Vega, whether that’s money, robocalls, switching people over, leaflets, putting people out on the street on election day,” McNesby said. “We’ve got our hand in every pocket, every pot, to pull votes out for Carlos Vega.”

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Voter registration data this week showed 3,051 Republicans in the city have switched their party registration to Democrat so far this year, with 63% of the party-switchers living in 14 wards in Northeast Philly, the FOP’s base of support. That can sound like a big number until you consider the city has more than a million voters and just 11% are Republicans.

Voters switch parties for all sorts of reasons. Republicans have also been leaving the party since the Capitol attack.

Ed Rendell used the party-switch maneuver in his winning campaign against Bob Casey Jr. in the 2002 Democratic primary for governor. But Rendell dedicated significant campaign infrastructure to that effort.

Vega didn’t dispute or counter Krasner’s Trump talk during the forum. His campaign manager, Trevor Maloney, later told Clout that Krasner “desperately wants to shift the focus away from his failed leadership that has made this city more unsafe, but we won’t take the bait.”

Peruto, who now sounds as if he’s channeling the ghost of Frank Rizzo, the controversial late police commissioner-turned-mayor, grudgingly gave credit to Krasner, who also invoked and denounced Rizzo during the forum.

“When you bring up names like Frank Rizzo or anyone who is polarizing, it’s a good thing to do as a politician,” Peruto said. “All you have to do if you want to win an election in this town is mention Donald Trump.”

McSwain still has those billboards as he eyes higher office

Speaking of Krasner critics, former U.S. Attorney Bill McSwain left his job as the region’s top federal prosecutor two months ago — but the office is still paying him dividends.

McSwain, now in private practice, launched a statewide political action committee last week, seen as a first step in a potential Republican bid for governor next year.

Also (still) seen: McSwain’s face on billboards around the region, paid for by the U.S. Department of Justice.

Clout told you last summer that McSwain took the unusual step of slapping his face on billboards — four in Philly, one each in Allentown and Lancaster — touting his office’s approach to gun crimes. He also appeared in a television commercial offered as a public-service announcement to all broadcast stations in his nine-county jurisdiction.

McSwain’s former office paid $75,138 for the billboards from its community engagement budget.

That’s a real boost for a guy with political ambitions but not much name (or face) recognition. And it’s still paying off.

The billboards, including one along I-95 in Northeast Philly, were still up as he was launching his new committee, even though that ad campaign ended in October. The U.S. Attorney’s Office told Clout the billboards will remain up until their owner rents them to someone else.

From Trump to tolls

Speaking of Trump fans, Ted Christian, a senior adviser for the ex-president’s 2016 and 2020 campaigns in Pennsylvania, was appointed this week to the Delaware River Port Authority.

Christian, a lobbyist at Duane Morris Government Strategies, was appointed by state Treasurer Stacy Garrity, a Republican who defeated Democratic incumbent Joe Torsella in November. Garrity said Christian “understands the need for a watchful eye and the benefits of transparency.”

Christian also worked in Pennsylvania for John McCain’s 2008 presidential bid and former New Jersey Gov. Christie Todd Whitman’s 1997 reelection campaign.

The DRPA manages the Ben Franklin, Walt Whitman, Commodore Barry, and Betsy Ross Bridges connecting Pennsylvania and New Jersey over the Delaware River, and operates the PATCO transit line.

Clout provides often irreverent news and analysis about people, power, and politics.