Larry Krasner says he is certain to win a second term Tuesday as Philadelphia’s district attorney
Krasner says the results from Tuesday’s election are already “crystal clear.” Challenger Chuck Peruto says he can win if “the sun, the moon, and the stars line up.”
Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner found reason for optimism amid the violence.
Speaking Monday with antiviolence advocates in West Philly, he noted homicides in the city were up 14% that day over last year but that the rate of killings had slowed compared to the pace earlier this year.
The numbers are still “disturbing,” Krasner conceded while suggesting the “big picture” is getting better.
“There are reasons to be optimistic that some of the numbers are going in the right direction,” he said.
Krasner repeated those data points Tuesday in a WHYY-FM interview — a muted closing argument in a campaign for an elected official charged with keeping the city safe.
Still, Krasner is the overwhelming favorite to win Tuesday’s General Election.
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He has refused to debate or otherwise engage with his Republican challenger, defense attorney Chuck Peruto, after declaring his second term officially underway on the evening in May when he won the Democratic primary. Given his edge, Krasner has no reason to give Peruto a platform.
“It is crystal clear what the outcomes are going to be. It just is,” Krasner said Monday about the election.
Peruto, a former Democrat who supported Krasner in 2017 but now decries his approach to gun violence and homicide cases, called his opponent’s optimistic data points “the best political spin I’ve ever heard.”
Democrats outnumber Republicans in Philadelphia seven to one. It has been 30 years since the city last had a Republican district attorney. Just 21% of the city’s voters cast ballots in the May primary, when the Democratic contest was seen as more competitive.
“I don’t delude myself into believing I’m going to win this,” Peruto said. “But I could win this if the sun, the moon, and the stars line up and people vote. I don’t want to hear people complain. I want to see them vote.”
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Krasner was a career defense attorney known for a focus on civil rights cases four years ago when he surprised the city’s political and legal circles, riding a progressive wave to victory in a crowded primary. He won 75% of the 2017 general election vote while defeating a career prosecutor.
His first term was marked by reforms and rocky relationships, a focus on criminals who commit the most violent crimes and a deemphasis on prosecutions for nonviolent crime. There were disagreements with former U.S. Attorney Bill McSwain, state Attorney General Josh Shapiro, Mayor Jim Kenney, and others.
Krasner has also heralded his Conviction Integrity Unit, which has unwound convictions by some of his predecessors.
Peruto calls those efforts “bribery” for votes in communities of color.
“In these hard-hit areas, you have people who have loved ones in prison,” Peruto said. “Larry is their hope. He’s bringing them home. I can’t compete with that.”
Philadelphia, like big cities across the country, faced a rise in gun violence during Krasner’s first term. He has often pointed to that larger trend, as well as problems with what he sees as the “culture of policing” in Philadelphia, giving rise to complaints that he blames others while avoiding responsibility.
» READ MORE: Philly DA Larry Krasner won’t debate his Republican challenger, calling it ‘a waste of time’
Krasner in May easily bested longtime homicide prosecutor Carlos Vega, taking two-thirds of the vote after a bruising battle. Krasner frequently tried to tie Vega to former President Donald Trump. Vega filed a pending lawsuit just before the primary, accusing Krasner’s campaign of defaming him when speaking about his record as a prosecutor.
While Krasner has mostly eschewed a traditional campaign for reelection, he does make his case in public, often in a strident and structured way.
He holds weekly Monday morning news conferences around the city, carefully stage-managed affairs with multiple speakers standing on socially distanced marks on the floor before being called to the lectern. An aide in the audience holds a digital tablet showing how long each set of remarks is taking.
Krasner uses the events to chide bail commissioners, judges, elected officials, and the Fraternal Order of Police while also emphasizing efforts to collaborate with others in power. He keeps the discussions inside focused on politics. He fields political questions outside.
Last Monday he described constructive conversations he’s had recently with Kenney and City Council President Darrell Clarke. Those relationships have been bumpy at times for Krasner, who still calls himself a “political outsider” and shows little patience for critics.
The Democratic City Committee rebuffed Krasner’s request for an endorsement before the primary, an unusual snub for an incumbent, reflecting concern among some ward leaders about the spike in violent crime. Former U.S. Rep. Bob Brady, the party’s chair, said Democrats will fall behind Krasner on Tuesday.
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Brady has been holding weekly pizza parties for candidates on Tuesday’s ballot. A running joke at party headquarters has been whether Krasner would show up. Krasner no-showed for the pizza on Wednesday.
Krasner notes that he was in the first wave of progressive prosecutors elected in big cities across the country and that all who have stood for reelection have won so far as a second wave of newly elected progressives joins them.
“Two years ago, 10% of the United States resided in a jurisdiction where there was a progressive prosecutor,” Krasner said. “Right now, it’s 20.1%. You’re talking 70 million Americans reside in a place where there is a progressive prosecutor.”
Krasner said Vega and Peruto targeted him as vulnerable to criticism for how he deals with gun violence. That has been a theme for many Krasner critics. He sees it as off the mark.
“Maybe what I’m most proudest of is if you look at the communities most affected by gun violence, we’re taking 80 to 85% of the vote,” he said. “The very issue they thought was a winner for them went the other way. What people wanted was not at all what siloed political insiders and siloed political institutions thought.”
Krasner touts his small-dollar campaign contributors as evidence of a large and unshakable base. And he keeps appealing to them, right up until Election Day, despite suggesting the result is an inevitable victory.
On paper, the race seems closer. Krasner reported $58,483 in his campaign account as of Oct. 18 while Peruto had $47,844. But Krasner started 2021 with $188,000 in the bank and raised an additional $1.18 million this year. Peruto took in just $128,210 in 2021. Krasner drew down his account for his primary victory.
Peruto has booked one television commercial for PHL17 to air Thursday evening and plans for a few more on 6abc Friday, Monday, and Tuesday. Krasner has not aired television commercials since the primary.
Outside money, a factor in the primary, has been largely absent in this election. A group of retired police officers, organized into a PAC, spent heavily during the spring in a failed bid to defeat Krasner. Billionaire George Soros, a backer of progressive candidates nationwide also put up substantial money to help Krasner. Soros gave no money in the general election, and the police PAC has not reported spending anything on it.