Philadelphia’s Democratic Party ward leaders voted Wednesday evening for an “open primary” with no endorsement in the race for district attorney.
District Attorney Larry Krasner isn’t too happy about that. Incumbents almost always get the party nod.
But did the party actually do Krasner a favor here?
Clout hears a majority of the party’s Policy Committee members were leaning hard toward his challenger, former homicide prosecutor Carlos Vega, after the two candidates made pitches for the endorsement in a meeting last week.
Vega might have had the votes to win the endorsement if the committee had voted on that, according to two people in the room who spoke to Clout about the private meeting.
That would have been far worse for Krasner.
Party chair Bob Brady said “quite a few people” had problems with Krasner’s explanation for a spike in homicides and gun crime.
“The ward leaders did go after him on the gun issue and safety in the streets,” Brady said. “He kept blaming different people and the pandemic. They didn’t buy it.”
Krasner thinks his position in the meeting was stronger than Brady suggests.
“There were really only a couple who seemed to be talking the Carlos Vega talking points,” he told Clout on Thursday. “And there was quite a bit of support amongst some other people who were in that room.”
Vega told Clout he appreciated the “probing questions” from the ward leaders.
“I think my message to them resonated,” he said.
Krasner notes that he won the seven-candidate 2017 primary, which the party also left open after then-District Attorney Seth Williams dropped out of the race, ahead of going on trial for public corruption charges, pleading guilty and going to federal prison.
In an open primary, the 69 Democratic leaders of the city’s 66 wards — three wards are so big they’re divided in two — can list any candidate for district attorney on the sample ballots the party prints up to be handed to voters on election day. They can also leave that spot blank.
In the 2017 primary, 26 wards went with no pick, 37 wards went for one of the six other candidates, two wards tried to list two candidates, and four wards listed Krasner as their selection.
Vega rejects pro-police PAC claims in George Floyd case
A political action committee founded last year by a group of retired Philadelphia police officers to challenge Krasner’s bid for a second term had been expected to back Vega’s campaign.
But Vega doesn’t want Protect Our Police PAC’s support after reading a fund-raising email the group sent Thursday, citing the murder trial now underway for former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin.
Chauvin knelt on George Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes, according to prosecutors. Floyd’s death set off protests across the nation and a reckoning about systemic racism and policing.
“George Floyd was murdered,” Vega told Clout. “And we need to hold bad cops accountable, not make excuses for their behavior.”
Protect Our Police PAC blamed Floyd directly — and inaccurately — for his own death.
“Let’s get one thing clear: George Floyd tested positive for COVID-19 and was high on a lethal dose of fentanyl when he died,” the group’s email claimed.
The Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s Office ruled Floyd’s death a homicide, listing the cause as “cardiopulmonary arrest complicating law enforcement subdual, restraint and neck compression.”
Floyd’s heart disease, hypertension, fentanyl intoxication, and recent methamphetamine use were cited as “other significant conditions” but not as a cause of death.
Protect Our Police founder Nick Gerace did not respond to requests for comment.
The group raised $738,000 in 2020, with $500,000 coming from Republican megadonor Timothy Mellon, who also gave $20 million last year to a political action committee trying to help former President Donald Trump win a second term.
Mellon self-published a 2015 autobiography, describing Black people as “even more belligerent” due to social welfare programs, which he called “slavery redux.”
All eyes on Braddock in the Senate race
Braddock, an economically blighted former steel-mill borough with 2,100 residents in Allegheny County, eight miles down river from Pittsburgh, is getting boatloads of attention these days, thanks to its former mayor, Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, and his bid for the U.S. Senate.
The burg’s mayor, Chardaé Jones, endorsed for Senate State Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta, a Philadelphia Democrat, noting that Fetterman didn’t ask for her support.
Fetterman responded Thursday with a “first slate” of endorsements from local elected officials. That included Delia Lennon, running unopposed for mayor in Braddock this year, Rob Parker, the borough’s council president, and Councilmember Dee Scales.
The National Republican Senatorial Campaign tried to get in on the action, sending a news release about how “Jones had snubbed her predecessor,” Fetterman. The NRSC also took note of some Inquirer reporting this week.
“And to make this week even worse for Fetterman, the Braddock man Fetterman confronted with a shotgun in 2013 released a letter claiming that Fetterman ‘lied about everything’ regarding that confrontation,” the NRSC wrote.
The NRSC left out the part of the letter where that man, Christopher Miyares, wrote to The Inquirer that he still hopes Fetterman wins the Senate race.
Clout provides often irreverent news and analysis about people, power, and politics.