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The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

Fit to be king
Lilli Dellheim, Special to the Hawk • July 13, 2024

Corruption and candidates


Local Philadelphia election worthy of attention

Last week, Philadelphia became a municipality whose top governmental lawyer doesn’t have an active law license. Current District Attorney Seth Williams announced on Friday his intention to remain in office for the remainder of his term, despite the suspension of his law license that came in response to local and federal charges of bribery and corruption. Williams has decided not to run for reelection, citing the disgrace with which he leaves office, joining the laundry list of Philadelphia politicians whose careers have been brought to an abrupt end by their own corruption. This situation leaves us with a new election, and a decision to make.

I must confess that like many other voters I too do not have enough information to decide yet exactly who I will vote for. Local Philadelphia elections may seem unimportant or irrelevant to some of us as temporary visitors to a city we might leave after four years. But for those of us who are investing our time, our plans and our money in this city for the foreseeable future, we should also invest our voices: by exercising our privilege to vote as well as our rights to engage in the vibrant political conversations and activism that is abounding in Philadelphia.

We must engage in these local “off year” elections that continue to have abysmal voter turnout rates. State and local laws by far encompass the laws that have an actual impact on our lives. Especially when national politics are so volatile and polarized, we must cast our votes where they count the most.

The district attorney is the city’s chief law enforcement officer, responsible for prosecuting wrongdoers and for upholding the integrity of the local criminal justice system. In a city so fraught with political scandals and low voter registration and participation rates, we cannot afford to elect another district attorney, who like Williams, would fail to live up to promises of criminal justice reform and would fail Philadelphians by succumbing to corruption.

With no incumbent and no endorsement from the Philadelphia Democratic Party, the district attorney primaries and election will be well worth some public attention. Those who have declared their candidacy and will appear on the ballot include seven Democrats—Richard Negrin, Joe Khan, Michael W. Untermeyer, Tariq Karim El-Shabazz, Lawrence S. Krasner, Teresa Carr Deni and John O’Neill—and one Republican—Beth Grossman—reflecting the typical fare for Philadelphia election choices.

Grossman, a former prosecutor, runs on a platform promoting ethics, controlling crime, and liberating the city from the Democratic Party’s stranglehold. Conversely, the Democratic primary race will feature what has, since the 2016 elections, quickly become standard infighting between progressive and more moderate Democrats.

Many of the Democratic candidates platforms are more progressive than in the past for the city due to the organizing efforts of the recently-created Philadelphia Coalition for a Just District Attorney pushing the candidates further left on criminal justice reform and mobilizing voters to that end.

Although at this point in local elections, most voters have very little information, Krasner seems to be the candidate standing out from the pack. A former civil rights lawyer known for defending Black Lives Matter and Occupy activists and alleging police misconduct, Krasner already has endorsements from leaders of the groups he has defended and a platform that includes many of the items on the Philadelphia Coalition as a Just District Attorney is demanding, including an end to cash bail.

Meanwhile, Negrin, a more moderate Democrat who has defended stopand-frisk tactics despite other, more progressive stances, has received the endorsement of the Philadelphia Fraternal Order of Police.

The primary elections for District Attorney, as well as district and state judicial elections, will be head on May 16, 2017. If you’re registered in Philadelphia, get out and vote.

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