Civil rights attorney Larry Krasner has picked up two more endorsements in his campaign to replace the indicted Seth Williams as Philadelphia’s next district attorney. Add that to the $1.4 million independent advertising and field campaign showered on him by billionaire George Soros — and Krasner is looking more like the one to beat in Tuesday’s Democratic primary, though another candidate says he has a poll in which he’s tied with Krasner.
Krasner got the backing of the Black Clergy of Philadelphia and Vicinity and state Sen. Vincent Hughes of West Philadelphia Thursday.
Those two endorsements, following the support he’s received from influential Northwest Philadelphia Democrats two weeks ago, make it easy to overlook the nod he got Wednesday from a construction union, the Northeast Regional Council of Carpenters.
UPDATE: For what it’s worth, candidate Joe Khan has released a campaign poll showing him tied with Krasner at 20 percent, six points ahead of the rest of the pack. Khan has raised enough money ($648,000 as of May 1) to wage a credible media campaign.
At a news conference with Krasner Thursday, Hughes said he looked the seven candidate field over and made his pick.
“It’s not a knock on anyone else,” Hughes said. “Thirty years of fighting for civil rights cannot be ignored. You can’t just kick that to the curb.”
Hughes, who also said he expects Krasner to fight for fair education funding, is known for running a field operation in West Philadelphia, which should help Krasner.
Krasner wasn’t crowing, but he admitted he’s feeling good.
“I’m not a professional politician. I’ve never run for office before,” he said. “But I am surrounded by people who are incredibly skilled, and they feel there is a palpable momentum.”
While Krasner has picked up some meaningful support from African-American leaders, the one black candidate in the race, Tariq El-Shabazz, has been running an underfunded effort that’s largely invisible to the citywide media.
It’s not that he isn’t active — events are posted on his Facebook page — but his campaign doesn’t put out a lot of news releases or make press calls.
At a West Philadelphia event last weekend, El-Shabazz picked up the endorsements of City Council members Jannie Blackwell and Curtis Jones. Cindy Bass also supports him.
When he spoke, El-Shabazz threw a jab at Krasner, saying the race isn’t for president of the ACLU.
“It’s not an election for us to determine who is best suited to put forth First Amendment freedom of speech rights,” El-Shabazz said. “This is an election to decide how we can keep Philadelphia safe.”
Two other candidates — former prosecutor Joe Khan and former prosecutor, now real estate developer Michael Untermeyer — have been going at each other.
In an ad Khan ran a couple of weeks ago, a big picture of an elephant with the word “Republican” appears on the screen while an announcer says, “After losing twice as a Republican, millionaire Republican Mike Untermeyer switched parties just to run for DA.”
It’s true Untermeyer ran as a Republican in 2009 and 2011, but a big reason Khan targeted him was that Untermeyer is rich.
Untermeyer has put close to $1 million into his own campaign, and he has flooded the airwaves with his ads. The numbers show Untermeyer has reached considerably more viewers than the Soros-funded ads for Krasner. So Khan needed to try to take Untermeyer down a peg.
Now Untermeyer has responded with an ad throwing some criticisms at Khan and touting his own Democratic credentials.
“Michael Untermeyer has been a Democrat for over 40 years,” the ad says. “Untermeyer has given and helped raise thousands of dollars for Democrats across the country.”
The campaign contributions are documented, but how could Untermeyer have been a Democrat for 40 years and run as a Republican twice in the last decade? It’s in the fine print: He didn’t say 40 consecutive years.
Candidates Rich Negrin, Teresa Carr Deni and Jack O’Neill are also in the mix, with less money and media presence.
But there’s another factor in the contest: The 69 Democratic ward leaders, whose committeepeople can affect enough votes to matter in a low-turnout election like this.
Ward leaders don’t always announce their plans, but Philadelphia Weekly reporter Max Marin made more than 200 calls trying to figure out who’s for whom. He said a lot of candidates have some ward leaders supporting them.
“There’s no front-runner,” Marin said. “If you look at the ward map, yes, some people have an edge of one or two wards, according to my calculation. But it’s all very close and very much in flux.”
Marin said several candidates have support in 10 or more wards, but no one has anything close to majority, lending an element of unpredictability to the race.
One thing that can influence ward leaders’ decisions is money.
A candidate willing to pay a few thousand dollars to, well, support a ward’s field operation can get a friendlier hearing.
With Soros taking care of so many of Krasner’s needs, he’s free to use some of the $100,000 plus he has in his own campaign funds to incentivize ward support.
Sample ballots handed out Tuesday will tell the tale of who ended up with whom.