POLS ON THE STREET: Election over … the Campaign Begins

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STATE REP. John Taylor held his cigar-smoker fundraiser at the Colonial Dames in Rittenhouse Square, always well attended. He was joined by his new law partner, former Democratic DA Lynne Abraham, and his colleague State Rep. Martina White.

BY JOE SHAHEELI
It pays to have enthusiastic supporters in politics.

Running against six well-credentialed opponents in the Philadelphia district attorney’s Democratic primary, Larry Krasner, who has been a defender all his life, scooped up 38% of the vote to win commandingly on May 16. That’s because he had become a popular cause among some elements of the electorate.

Krasner won an outright majority in eight of the city’s 66 wards. That’s easier said than done in a seven-way race. Only one rival, former Managing Director Rich Negrín, won a majority in two wards; but those were the low-turnout Latino 11th and 19th.

But Krasner’s wards were high-turnout wards. They were clustered in a ring around Center City, in neighborhoods like University City, upper South Philadelphia and lower North Philadelphia, as well as in the 10th and 50th Wards controlled by the supervoting Northwest Coalition. Turnout spiked in these areas, a sign that Krasner’s anti-establishment message had caught fire among educated younger progressives.

Although many parts of the city are still plagued by high crime rates, crime has dropped over the last generation. As a result, “tough on crime” is no longer a battle cry for the average city voter. While most people still favor catching criminals, law and order is not a mission that stirs most people to vote for ramped-up enforcement now, as it was in the 1970s or ’90s.

But the Trump campaign, with its noisy bashing of crime as a problem afflicting minorities and cities, deeply affronted progressives, many of whom are still in shock from the results of the November 2016 national election. Their frustration prompted many of them to do what once they seldom bothered to do: take local politics seriously.

What About the General Election for DA?

Philadelphia Republicans have not won a competitive citywide race since Ron Castille won the DA’s office in 1990, and with Democrats holding a 7-1 registration advantage now, the city GOP’s chances are always dubious.

But since Krasner is an unconventional candidate, Republicans are hoping for an unconventional November general election. Their candidate for DA, Beth Grossman, is a mature and experienced attorney with a background in the DA’s Office.

The Fraternal Order of Police makes no bones about its loathing for Krasner, who has called for investigation and prosecution of officers who are involved in abuses. Their mood was not sweetened when some Krasner supporters let loose anti-police chants at their candidate’s victory party.

STATE REP. John Taylor held his cigar-smoker fundraiser at the Colonial Dames in Rittenhouse Square, always well attended. He was joined by his new law partner, former Democratic DA Lynne Abraham, and his colleague State Rep. Martina White.

While Krasner has stressed that he holds the vast majority of police officers in highest respect, don’t look for a wave of Krasner votes from them. The question is whether Krasner can tamp down his base enough to avoid rattling moderate voters. It’s not clear that Black Lives Matter, which prides itself on grassroots indiscipline, can refocus its message. A few more indiscreet live-footage vignettes could provide a vigorous Republican campaign with brutal TV attack material.

Will the state Republican Party will see enough of an opening in deep-blue Philadelphia to invest serious outside money in an anti-Krasner campaign? Republican City Committee’s pockets cannot support the needed advertising and groundwork. Even if it does not win this election, PAGOP might capitalize on the bump of Trump support among middle-class whites, hoping to turn them from a one-time phenomenon into reliable urban Republicans.

Can RCC entice covert defectors from organization Democrats as well? Krasner won with only 38% of the vote, after all, meaning 62% of Democrats preferred someone else.

Rumors have arisen that some Republican leaders are eyeing prominent Democratic elected officials for a possible candidate replacement. It’s a playable move. The likeliest candidates would be found among the judiciary, because they could be promised a judicial appointment, possibly at the appellate level, from their new party if they lost.

(h2>Wards Desert Butkovitz in Controller’s Race
While Rebecca Rhynhart’s unseating of Alan Butkovitz was undoubtedly helped by the same anti-establishment fervor that pushed Krasner to the front of his pack, it played out in a different way in the race for city controller. Vital though this office is to the proper functioning of city government, auditing rarely stirs passions the way public-safety issues do. Most voters go along with the knowledgeable authorities when choosing a controller – usually, in practice, Democratic City Committee’s endorsement.

But Butkovitz, the endorsed candidate, won only a handful of wards outside his native Northeast. A ward leader himself, he did not persuade his colleagues in the rest of the city to rally their constituents behind him.

Guv Race now a Free-for-All

It goes without saying in politics that the next big campaign begins the day after the last big election. While their fellow citizens plot their vacations, insiders’ eyes turn to the 2018 statewide races.

At this point, Republican attacks on Casey are pro forma and his challengers look like junior varsity, although they have almost a year to prove themselves before their primary. It’s the governor’s race, where numerous Republicans are vying to oust one-term Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf, where fires are being lit.

At this stage, it’s a three-way firing squad, with incumbent Wolf and his two announced challengers (with more lurking in the wings) firing volleys at each other.

The latest entry, Allegheny County health-care entrepreneur Paul Mango, fits the mold both of Wolf and his first GOP challenger, State Sen. Scott Wagner (R-York). All three men built fortunes in the private sector with mid-sized private companies and sought Harrisburg as “outsiders.”

When Mango announced his candidacy last week, he was greeted with a salvo of attacks as his Republican rival Wagner joined the Pennsylvania Democratic Party in sneering at him.

Democrats across the state snapped into action, pressing Mango to go on record as to whether he supports the US House of Representatives’ Republican health-care bill, which polls show is unpopular. For his part, Wagner needled Mango with this comment: “Yesterday in Pittsburgh, Paul Mango announced his run for governor with a simple slogan – ‘Harrisburg is broken. I will work to fix it.’ The only problem? Scott Wagner’s been campaigning since February with pretty much the exact same slogan.”

There is no love lost between competing government-fixers.

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