Larry Krasner isn’t the DA yet. But he’s got big plans.
The newly-anointed Democratic nominee for District Attorney of Philadelphia held his first press conference today since winning the primary Tuesday, laying out how he won, his vision for the office, and, of course, that feud with the police union. You can watch the full video here; we’ll recap six highlights below:
1. Day 1: ‘The death penalty issue is easy’
Krasner still has to win the general election in November before he can make the change he’s seeking, but in a city with a 7-to-1 Democratic voter registration advantage, he’s probably going to be the next district attorney.
And he’s got plans for his first moves in office. Krasner said the “death penalty issue is easy,” saying that on day one he will cease any seeking of the death penalty for first-degree murder cases. The second issue, he said, is recruiting job candidates to fill positions in his office, and he said he’s open to attracting candidates not just locally, but from across the country.
After that? Krasner said he’ll start working to address the mass incarceration problem — Philadelphia has the highest incarceration rate of any Northeast city — by reviewing sentencing structures and expanding diversionary programs.
2. ‘Stop lighting money on fire.’
In his first formal press conference since winning the primary, Krasner talked about schools and public education reform; those are not often expressed as leading priorities for a chief law enforcement officer. Krasner’s convinced that overspending on mass incarceration takes away critical funding that he feels could be used to prop up the city’s long-struggling public school system.
He said he’s looking forward to working with progressive legislators “who are supportive of education reform, improving funding, better public education for kids, like the public education I had, you know, a good one?”
But what’s the DA’s role in that? “Stop lighting money on fire,” he said, adding that there’s been a “drastic misallocation of resources.”
“We have been throwing money in a very political way toward mass incarceration,” he said. “And every time we do that, we’re taking money away from things that can actually prevent crime, like public education.”
3. Union heads ‘don’t control what the police do.’
The Fraternal Order of Police, Lodge 5 (AKA the Philadelphia Police union) endorsed Rich Negrin for district attorney, and it’s safe to say Krasner was probably at the bottom of their DA wish list. He’s spent his career criticizing policing tactics and the criminal justice system and has filed dozens of lawsuits against the police.
So naturally, the union ain’t happy. FOP Lodge 5 President John McNesby told The Inquirer today that “his election to that position would be catastrophic to the department and the community as a whole.” Krasner said he’s “extremely optimistic” he’ll be able to work with police.
“I am delighted about working with the rank and file,” Krasner said. “If the union chooses to work with the district attorney, that’s fine. But they don’t control what the police do.”
Though McNesby told The Inquirer that the FOP would be willing to meet with Krasner and hear him out, Krasner said he hasn’t yet reached out to the union but “would be happy to meet with them.” Though he did say he spoke earlier today with Police Commissioner Richard Ross, who Krasner called “genuinely progressive” and said he had a “very constructive conversation with” Ross.
4. ‘My strategy was to say exactly what I believe’
How’d Krasner pull off the win? Some have speculated his support could be part of a progressive wave in response to President Donald Trump’s administration and Attorney General Jeff Sessions (To whom Krasner referred multiple times Wednesday afternoon by his full given name: “Jefferson Beauregard Sessions.”). And Krasner didn’t deny that enthusiasm probably helped him.
But he said he was also successful because he was able to drum up broad-based support from groups and institutions across the city. He told stories of driving around the city with progressive council members who support him. And he said this wasn’t simply a case of “traditional top-down politics,” but was instead supporters using their networks effectively.
“Where there is a will and where there is a team, there’s a way to progress,” he said, adding later: “My strategy was to say exactly what I believe.”
5. ‘I didn’t take a dime.’
Liberal billionaire George Soros dumped more than a million dollars into the Philadelphia district attorney’s race to support Krasner, who has before criticized Citizens United and railed against politicians who accept dark money. So he took some heat for being so publicly propped up by a well-known mega-donor from outside the city.
But Krasner said today that he wants the public to know that he “didn’t take a dime” from Soros, “not one penny from any super PAC.” What he means is that Soros and the super PAC he’s linked with funded the Krasner support ads on their own.
6. ‘I’m not really interested in politics.’
Krasner for prez? Not any time soon. The Democratic nominee for DA said he’s not interested in running for mayor or governor in the future. Quite frankly, he said, he’s “not really interested in politics.”