No matter what happens when voters select Philadelphia’s next district attorney on Nov. 7, Beth Grossman has no regrets.
Grossman, who can recite the addresses where her parents grew up blocks apart in the Northeast and proudly embraces her Jewish heritage, said it’s been a blast.
“I’m so glad I did this, and I’ve met so many amazing people,” said the 49-year-old Grossman, taking a short break before going back onto the campaign trail. “I would not have traded it for the world. It’s not something I ever thought I would do or planned to do. But it made me fall in love with the city again. My city.”
With the support of her old boss, former DA Lynne Abraham, along with an endorsement from the Fraternal Order of Police, Grossman has taken dead aim at opponent Larry Krasner. She said Krasner isn’t equipped for the job because he’s never prosecuted a case.
While conceding that every suspect deserves the best legal representation, and that Krasner’s 30-year-career as a defense attorney shows he’s good at his job, she doesn’t believe that should qualify him to be DA.
“As a defense attorney, it’s in his DNA to never fight for justice for the victims of crime,” said Grossman, bidding to become the first Republican DA elected in Philadelphia since Ron Castille in 1986. “He’s defended murderers and child rapists. His background has been defending those who’ve committed crimes.”
Grossman’s background has been at the prosecutorial end, spending 21 years as an assistant DA, many of them working under Abraham. She believes the relationships she’s formed along the way will make for a smoother transition in an office that’s been in chaos since DA Seth Williams stepped down. (Williams was recently sentenced to five years in prison.)
“This office is about relationships, working with the other city agencies,” Grossman said. “I already have the contacts from my two decades being a prosecutor. As an assistant DA in Philadelphia, I’ve dealt with every type of crime, championed rights, spoken up for victims and worked with community groups throughout the city.”
Still, she’s fighting an uphill battle, running in a city where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans by a ratio of seven to one. She said that shouldn’t matter.
“What people understand, first of all, is that all politics is local,” Grossman said. “And people understand crime doesn’t care what political party you belong to, and neither does the DA’s office.
“But when you have a Democratic Party machine that’s been in power since 1951, and not an overly strong or aggressive Republican Party, things have existed quietly for so long.
The first thing people say is it’s a lonely walk as a Republican in Philadelphia. However, the office of the DA has been the office where Republican lightning has struck.”
For her to follow the trail blazed by the late Arlen Specter (1966) and Castille, Grossman needs to convince some of that Democratic stronghold that she’s the right person for the job.
She knows it won’t be easy, though she did secure the Inquirer’s endorsement.
“People are affected most by what they see when they step out the front door,” said Grossman, who differs from Krasner when it comes to property seizure of suspected criminals and how to handle the growing heroin and opioid epidemic within the city. “They want a prosecutor to be available as a resource to help address those issues. We’re on opposite ends of many things ideologically. What he’s concerned about is reducing mass incarceration. That’s not what the DA’s office is about.
“The DA’s office is tasked with investigating and prosecuting violations of Philadelphia crimes. This is just not the job for him.”
Grossman said she wasn’t certain what to expect when she got into the race, considering the heated polical climate.
“But I think people realize this is a political race for a non-political office,” she said. “And, as I have consistently said, we have one of the finest public defenders offices in the country. We don’t need two.”
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