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Homicide surge ratchets up pressure on progressive DAs

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08.04.2021

PHILADELPHIA — Larry Krasner’s election in 2017 was a triumph for progressives nationwide: The man who had sued cops 75 times, represented Black Lives Matter, promised to end cash bail — and was widely seen as the most liberal district attorney candidate in the country — won.

Four years later, Philadelphia’s top prosecutor — and one of the leading figures of the country’s criminal justice reform movement — is under siege.

Homicides are skyrocketing in the city, and local officials are grumbling. A former assistant district attorney backed by the local police union is challenging Krasner in the May primary. And in recent weeks, the Philadelphia Democratic Party broke with years of tradition and declined to endorse the incumbent.

The primary battle is a test of whether the left can maintain its successful campaign electing progressive district attorneys amid an uptick in murders in cities around the country. If Krasner wins, it could signal the arrival of a new era, one in which the public doesn’t recoil from liberal criminal justice policy — even when crime statistics go up. If he fails, it would be a jolt for politically beleaguered police unions, and a sudden halt to what has been a steady shift leftward in urban DA races.

“His reelection means everything,” said Shaun King, a civil rights advocate and former surrogate for Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign. “We always knew that Larry, a lifelong civil rights attorney, would come in and change the system from the inside out, and that doing so would make him a major target.”

Krasner isn’t the only big-city progressive prosecutor meeting fierce resistance. In California, both San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin and Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascón are facing recall efforts. Opponents of the left-wing DAs have accused them of letting criminals loose on the streets and turning a blind eye to victims — all criticisms lobbed at Krasner, too.


Krasner has framed his reelection campaign as a choice between the future and the past, “a past........

© Politico


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