Larry Krasner, a district attorney who has championed progressive causes and criminal justice reform, declared victory in Philadelphia’s Democratic primary on Tuesday, fending off a challenger who said his politics were fueling a surge in violent crime.
Krasner’s win over Democratic challenger Carlos Vega, a longtime homicide prosecutor whom Krasner fired, will likely bolster his efforts to reform the district attorney’s office. He is almost sure to win the general election in the firmly left-leaning city in November against attorney Chuck Peruto, the only Republican vying for the position.
“We in this movement for criminal justice reform just won a big one,” Krasner said Tuesday evening as results came in. “Four years ago we promised reform and a focus on serious crime. We kept those promises. And this time they put us back in office for what we have done. Not ideas, not promises, but realities.”
Vega conceded just before midnight, although the count hadn’t ended. He said in a statement he hoped those he represented were heard throughout the campaign despite his loss.
“My campaign was first and foremost about lifting up the voice of victims who have been forgotten by the current administration,” Vega said.
Krasner was elected in 2017 as a fierce supporter of progressive issues, vowing to end the prosecution of low-level drug possession and rein in police misconduct. He has touted such efforts as a means to shift a system he says has unfairly targeted communities of color.
“What has been going on in criminal justice in Philly ... has been hurting all of us, and it has been hurting all of us for a very, very long time,” Krasner said at a campaign event earlier this month, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
But Krasner’s critics pointed to a rise in gun violence in the city as evidence that such policies were ineffective.
In 2020, 499 people were killed in Philadelphia and more than 2,240 were shot, according to the Inquirer. Earlier this year, Krasner said the number of shootings, which were 40% higher than police had ever recorded, were linked to a barrage of pandemic-related factors.
“This is truly a once-in-a-century anomaly,” Krasner told The Atlantic this month.
Vega had promised to continue reform efforts but to work more closely with the police, saying Krasner was the only new factor in Philadelphia politics in light of the surge in violence.
“We had the same judges and the same police department before he took office,” Vega told The Atlantic this month. “The only difference now is we have Mr. Krasner.”
Vega had earned fierce support from the police union during his campaign, which encouraged Republicans to switch their party affiliations before Tuesday’s election in a bid to vote Krasner out of office.