Larry Krasner Wins Philly DA Race: 'This Is a Movement' for Criminal Justice Reform

The civil rights and criminal defense attorney says cops can expect to be treated fairly, just like everybody else.



A digital billboard truck with bright LED "Congratulations to Larry Krasner: Philadelphia's New District Attorney" signs on its sides was waiting at the William Way LGBT Community Center, where the Democratic District Attorney nominee was holding his election watch party, before polls had closed.

Within an hour of polls closing, however, preliminary results had made it clear Krasner was running away with the election in this overwhelmingly Democratic city.

Back in February, the president of the Philadelphia Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), John McNesby, called Larry Krasner's candidacy for district attorney "hilarious."

In May, Krasner won a 7-way race for the Democratic nomination, and tonight Krasner was elected the next chief prosecutor in Philadelphia. His campaign promised to end mass incarceration, focus on "serious crime," and protect civil rights and liberties.

I asked Krasner if he had a message for the Fraternal Order of Police or McNesby. He says it's the same message he has for all members of law enforcement and for people not in law enforcement as well: "You're going to be treated fairly, you're going to be treated in an even-handed way, and you're also going to be [held] accountable, and if that's not good enough for you, maybe you should examine your own version of fair."

Krasner prevailed over his Republican opponent, Beth Grossman, who earned the endorsement of the Philly FOP (which had previously endorsed one of Krasner's Democratic primary opponents) as well as a state police and a state liquor board FOP, as well as the city's largest newspaper, the Philadelphia Inquirer.

The crowd at the William Way center let out a cheer as Krasner, the former civil rights attorney who has been a thorn in the side of bad cops for more than twenty years, took the stage a few minutes after the Associated Press called the election for him.

During his victory speech, Krasner asked the audience to call out what they believed the election provided a mandate for. The answers came: justice, equal rights, ending mass incarceration, cash bail. "This is the problem with equality, right?" Krasner joked.

"This is a mandate for a movement that is loudly telling government what it wants," Krasner said, "and what it wants is criminal justice reform and what that requires is transformational change within the Philadelphia district attorney's office."

Krasner told reporters after his speech that his first priority when he takes office will be to seek "cultural change" at the DA's office.

Some traditional Democrats were concerned about the kind of district attorney Krasner could be, and the Democratic city controller nominee, the other citywide office up for election, won by an even wider margin than Krasner.

Writing at The Philadelphia Citizen, Charles Ellison explained the only reason he wanted Krasner to win was because he was a Democrat. Ellison worried Krasner placed "too much emphasis on reform" and that he hadn't answered a question likely voters in the DA race had: "How are you going to keep me, my neighborhood and my family safe?"

In the end, it didn't matter. Krasner won by nearly 50 percent.

"What that says to me is this movement is not going away," Krasner said in his victory speech.

Krasner says the turnout for him was largely thanks to reaching out not only to residents who vote reliably but also focusing on residents who don't.

I asked Krasner about the difficulty prosecutors often have securing convictions against police officers, bringing up this week's case of NYPD officer Wayne Isaacs, who shot an unarmed man during a road rage incident, and what kind of systemic changes might be needed.

"I believe that Philadelphia juries are capable of doing things that are fair in this type of case, meaning a case where there is evidence that may indicate a crime by law enforcement," Krasner explained. "I think we just haven't had the will for decades in this DA's office to be even-handed and fair when it came to investigating cases where there was potential for charges against police."

"So I don't think it's that complicated," he continued. "I think with fair juries and with a prosecutor who's got one standard of justice instead of the one that suits his political ambitions, we should do fine."

The last elected District Attorney, Seth Williams, was sentenced to a 5 year bid on multiple bribery convictions last month.