Two major campus political groups, Penn Democrats and Penn Justice Democrats, endorsed Larry Krasner for reelection as Philadelphia’s district attorney in the upcoming primary election.
Board members of Penn Dems and Penn Justice Dems, a leftist group recently formed to advocate for progressive causes, said they supported Krasner because of his commitment to criminal justice reform and track record of holding police officers accountable.
Krasner, who was initially voted into office in 2017, is running in the May 18 primary election, during which each political party chooses its candidates to run for office during the general election. Early voting for the Democratic primary began on March 29, and the general election will be held on Nov. 2.
Krasner is a former public defender who began his own law practice in Philadelphia in 1993, specializing in civil rights and criminal defense. According to his website, he wants to focus on expanding the alternatives to incarceration, holding those with authority accountable, and increasing support for victims and survivors in Philadelphia if he wins reelection.
While Penn's major Democratic organizations support Krasner, the Philadelphia Democratic City Committee executive board has decided not to endorse Krasner in the upcoming primary, which will be the second time in 45 years that they have not endorsed the incumbent Democratic nominee. According to officials privy to the committee’s decisions, many leaders were against endorsing Krasner and said that they would not support the party’s ballot if he was at the top of it.
Penn Dems President and College junior Cassy Ingersoll said that the group's executive board speaks with all relevant candidates to hear their positions before making an endorsement. Votes from six of nine members of Penn Dems' executive board are needed in order to endorse a candidate.
Penn Dems Political Director and rising College sophomore Noah Lewine said that the vote to endorse Krasner in this election cycle was unanimous due to Krasner's progressive record.
“As district attorney, Krasner has been able to lift up victims, work on ending our contract with United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and reduce the number of people in Philadelphia on parole or probation by two-thirds,” Lewine said. “He's delivered on the promises that he was elected on four years ago, and we're looking forward to reelecting him.”
Similarly, Penn Justice Dems Communications Co-Chair and College junior Jack Cahill said that their organization's endorsement was unanimous among the group's general body and board members. Cahill added that Krasner is more willing to prosecute police officers in the wrong in comparison to his opponent.
Krasner is running against Carlos Vega, a former Philadelphia homicide prosecutor whom Krasner fired the first week he took office. Months after his termination, Vega sued Krasner, alleging that his firing was based on age discrimination. The lawsuit is currently pending in federal court.
Vega, who says he worked on 450 homicide cases throughout his career, also established his candidacy as a campaign against rising gun violence in Philadelphia. Similarly, Krasner is also focusing his campaign on addressing the underlying causes of gun violence by pushing for public health solutions.
One of the main reasons that Penn Justice Dems endorsed Krasner, Cahill explained, is because the group believes that Vega is "a highly funded pro-police-union candidate that threatens the progressive incumbency” and supports policies that do not align with the club’s goals.
Penn Dems executive board members also wrote in their endorsement release that Vega “did not have a progressive record as a homicide prosecutor.”
After the 2020 general election saw high student turnout across the country, both political groups are endorsing candidates for primary and general elections in hopes of continuing to motivate students to stay civically engaged.
Ingersoll said that an endorsement from Penn Dems can be beneficial because of the organization’s reach and name recognition. She added that the voter guide that Penn Dems creates and disseminates across campus before each election encourages a lot of students to vote, especially in primary elections with local candidates.
While Penn Justice Dems is a newer organization on campus, Cahill said its endorsement is similarly important because of the influence it has on progressive student voters on campus.
Cahill added that Penn Justice Dems board members are pleased that Penn Dems also endorsed Krasner, given his more progressive platform.
“It seems that [Penn Dems] shares the same convictions to reduce the county jail population, reduce the time that people spend in prison or on probation and parole, and prosecute police officers for abuse of power,” Cahill said.
Should Krasner get reelected, Ingersoll said that she hopes he continues to fight for radical change and build upon the progress from his first term towards a more equitable future.
“Especially this past year, it was [made] very public that the criminal justice system we have right now does not work,” Ingersoll said. “I really want Krasner to look into how we can change the whole system and make it so that we are funding communities instead of funding wars on communities.”