Larry Krasner doesn’t believe the fact that he’s never prosecuted a case in his 30-year career is a negative, or something that would prevent him from doing a good job as Philadelphia’s next district attorney.
In fact, considering the way things have gone in that office of late, culminating with former DA Seth Williams stepping down, pleading guilty to charges of accepting a bribe and receiving a five-year prison term, it might be a positive.
“In some ways, I feel it’s like the person who twice crashed your car coming back to you asking for your keys,” said Krasner, who’s spent his career as a defense attorney. “When you say, ‘Why should I give you my keys?’ they say, ‘Because I’m an experienced driver.’ So to those who say I’ve never been a prosecutor, that’s correct. It’s also true that the prosecutors we’ve had and those trained in the current culture of the DA’s office have been part of problems we’re trying to fix. This DA’s office has considerable problems and gets a bad report card.”
While he likes his opponent, Republican Beth Grossman, personally and appreciates her warmth and humor, he said their platforms have little in common.
“No. 1, I said I will not seek the death penalty. She has not,” said the 56-year-old Krasner, who announced his candidacy in March. “No. 2, I’ve taken a sanctuary city stance that is very clear. She has opposed that, saying I’m too sympathetic to immigrants. No. 3, the civil forfeiture that’s been going on for years is [verging] on being immoral. She’s lukewarm about that.
“There are similarities, but our death penalty positions and immigrant views express significant differences.”
Of course, being a Democrat in Philadelphia, which hasn’t elected a Republican mayor since Bernard Samuel in 1948 or a Republican DA since Ron Castille in 1986, has a built-in advantage. But Krasner said he hasn’t let it shape his campaign.
“That is an advantage where the registration is seven Democrats to every Republican,” said Krasner, who suspended his private law practice after winning the Democratic primary to avoid any potential conflicts of interest. “The flip side to that is I was viewed by many as an insurgent Democrat, meaning I’m not a third-generation member of the party.
“But we have to continue to run from behind. That’s how we’ve run our entire campaign. That’s why we have so many volunteers, because most of the time we weren’t ahead.”
Krasner’s taking nothing for granted, continuing to attend rallies and knock on doors to ensure getting that huge voter disparity to come to the polls on Nov. 7. Along the way, he’s decided it’s the message and the movement he’s supporting that matters most.
“My involvement is pretty unimportant, but there’s a progressive movement for criminal justice reform,” Krasner said. “I’ve seen it not only in Philly but in other cities as well.
“I’ve done pro bono work for activists trying to express themselves and exercise their First Amendment rights who got arrested. A lot of those people have gone on to have successful careers in which they continued to do activism and have a certain influence. The nature of activists is to be fighting a war with their fingernails when the other side has tanks and airplanes.”
Krasner believes he offers hope to them and others like them, even if it means having to talk about himself more than he’d like.
“There’s this terrifying stereotype of a politician as that chicken Foghorn Leghorn from the cartoon,” he laughed. “A blustering loudmouth who, when he comes into the room, it feels like 500 people — or chickens — just came in.
“I hope not to be that. I’m really not that interesting. But the nature of politics is you have to talk about yourself and promote yourself more than you’d like. So I’m slowly evolving into a giant chicken with a Southern accent.”
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