The Philadelphia Democratic Party will not be endorsing incumbent District Attorney Larry Krasner ahead of the May primary, Broad + Liberty has learned from sources who attended the party’s Thursday policy committee meeting.
Both sources spoke with Broad + Liberty under the condition that they remain anonymous, as they were not authorized to speak on behalf of the party.
The development underscores what some party leaders see as enough momentum harnessed by challenger Carlos Vega that the race is no longer a clear “walk away” win for Krasner. So, they believe, it would be improper for the party to put its thumb on the scale.
The party’s policy committee met Thursday evening for candidate interviews.
One source told Broad + Liberty that the party would generally feel comfortable with endorsing a candidate ahead of the primary if that candidate has roughly a two-thirds backing of both party leaders and grassroots.
But that same source also said that it was fairly evident from those in attendance at the meeting that a split had emerged. Vega was garnering enough support that the party will now leave any endorsements for the race untouched at the citywide level but would let the 66 local ward leaders decide any endorsements on their own at that level.
A second source told Broad + Liberty that rising crime rates were no longer to be waived away due to the pandemic.
“The kids are not safe, the seniors are not safe,” said the source. “I don’t feel safe letting my kid go down to the 7-11 to get a tank of gas. [Krasner] will try to make this about race, but this is about people’s lives. No accountability, no credibility. Being a DA, you don’t get to just turn your phone off at night. It’s 24-7, 365.”
Both sources described a general frustration after talking with Krasner about his tenure and his campaign. They said that the incumbent seemed unable to answer tough questions about his policies, their consequences, and how he could convey a positive message to a citizenry that is becoming more unsettled by a rising crime rate.
The first source said ward and division leaders are hearing complaints directly from “regular people, not political experts” who don’t necessarily follow legal or criminal justice news. They perceive a growing problem with gun violence, homicides, and other crimes that residents claim are not being properly addressed by Krasner and his administration.
But the first source went on to say that Krasner, when faced with these criticisms, tended to essentially say the facts are on his [Krasner’s] side.
“You don’t say the facts are on my side and if you don’t like how I’m communicating, that’s on you,” the source said.
“I’m happy the party has apparently decided to keep this primary open,” Vega told Broad + Liberty. “Philadelphians have lost confidence in Mr. Krasner’s leadership, and they are ready for an experienced DA who can bring reform and keep our city safe.”
Requests for comment were not immediately returned by the Krasner for DA campaign or the Philadelphia Democratic Party.
Just days ago, Krasner tried to portray himself as the only legitimate Democrat in the race.
“We need to get real about this,” Krasner said at a candidate’s forum organized by the Philadelphia Bar Association. “There is one Democrat who is in this race. There is a fake Democrat and then there is a Republican.”
Last week, Broad + Liberty reported that more than a dozen elected city and state leaders in the southeast refused to respond to a survey asking for their appraisal of Krasner’s first term.
On Wednesday, Broad + Liberty also reported that Krasner had been chastised by the Pennsylvania Superior Court for “a marked and concerning increase in the number of requests for extensions,” from the Philadelphia DA’s office.
Todd Shepherd is Broad + Liberty’s chief investigative reporter. Send him tips at tshepherd at broadandliberty.com, or use his encrypted email at shepherdreports at protonmail.com.