- Harrison Jacobs/Business Insider
- The civil-rights attorney Larry Krasner won the race for Philadelphia’s district attorney on Tuesday in a blowout. Nearly 75,000 more votes were cast than in the latest competitive district-attorney race. Krasner says the enthusiasm around his campaign should be a lesson to the Democratic Party that it should be “wrapping its loving arms around progressives.”
The civil-rights attorney Larry Krasner won the race for Philadelphia district attorney on Tuesday in a blowout, and Philadelphia voters have provided him a mandate to pursue the kind of drastic criminal-justice reform he touted while campaigning.
With 98% of precincts reporting by Wednesday morning, Krasner had just under 75% of the vote. While his immediate predecessor, Seth Williams, also won with 75% of the vote in 2009, turnout was far lower.
Though the numbers are still being tallied, the votes for district attorney this year edged near 200,000, an increase of more than 75,000 from four years ago. Krasner’s win was part of a wave on Tuesday night that saw the Democratic Party win governorships in Virginia and New Jersey, as well as positions in many other local races.
- Harrison Jacobs/Business Insider
It’s unclear what exactly drove voter turnout in the election, though opposition to President Donald Trump in a solidly Democratic city most likely contributed. But what is clear both from talking to Philadelphians and from local reporting is that Krasner generated an unheard-of level of enthusiasm for a local election.
“I think that there’s something going on,” he said. “I think it’s real.”
He added: “I think the Democratic Party should be madly wrapping its loving arms around progressives.”
Krasner’s platform called for an end to mass incarceration, the constellation of state and federal policies that have contributed to more than 2 million Americans behind bars. That platform – as well as Krasner’s long-established reputation as an advocate for civil rights, activists, and protesters – energized those in the city’s progressive base who then volunteered and canvassed heavily for him.
Michael Coard, a prominent African-American lawyer who has worked on activist cases with Krasner for a decade, told Business Insider that a “sleeping giant” of progressive Philadelphians and communities of color had “woken” this year to campaign, canvass, or vouch for Krasner.
Krasner said the enthusiasm for his campaign and the excitement generated by a series of ads aired by the Public Safety and Justice PAC during the primary that focused on his legal advocacy for Black Lives Matter and the Occupy movement taught him a lot about what Democratic voters were looking for in 2017.
Here’s Krasner on voters in 2017 and the Democratic Party:
Larry Krasner: The ads taught me a lesson, which is that it’s not 1987 anymore. People want their same-sex marriage. They want their recreational marijuana. They want their economic equality. Especially millennials and older African-Americans, who’ve been through the civil-rights movement and have seen it. They know there is racism. They don’t want racism, but they do want their public schools, which in many places don’t exist anymore.
It was a lesson to me that my views were being characterized as controversial. They’re actually pretty mainstream with the average Democratic voter in Philadelphia County.
Harrison Jacobs: Do you think there’s a lesson in that for the national Democratic Party?
Krasner: Absolutely. Absolutely. Let me just give you a little teeny tiny portion of it. I think if the Democrats nationally were to come out in favor of recreational marijuana – for many reasons, the first and best of them being it doesn’t kill anybody, but alcohol does. And when I say alcohol does, I mean like 80,000 lives a year. And marijuana kills nobody. It doesn’t kill anybody, but opiates and opioids do, and I mean like 60,000 lives every year. These are real numbers, as compared to zero.
I think that if Democrats would come out for that, then you would see a lot of rural areas that went for Trump where there are little pickup trucks going to the polls with guys who have beards, and they have ponytails, and they have a gun rack in the back, and they would be voting for recreational marijuana because they know it makes sense too. They know that the reality is that where it’s readily available, you have a 25% reduction in opioid/opiate fatalities. That is a national catastrophe. They know that at least the states that get in early are going to have tremendous tax funds that they can use to bolster education.
The Democratic Party has got to stop running around trying to be close to the Republican Party. Bernie made that clear.
In numerous majority-minority neighborhoods, Krasner netted more than 1,000 more votes during the primary in May than Williams, the city’s first black district attorney, did during the 2009 primary. Neighborhood vote totals for the general election have yet to be released, but considering the overall turnout bump, similar gains are expected.
By the Krasner campaign’s account, Krasner’s strongest voter demographic was African-American women – something he attributed to an understanding of the criminal-justice system he has proposed to reform.
William Wagner, a canvasser for the American Civil Liberties Union’s “Smart Justice” campaign in Philadelphia who was formerly incarcerated, put it this way: “Voting for a DA, where I come from, is something that we don’t care about,” but this year was different because the candidates were “specifically campaigning on the issues that we want our constituents to vote for.”