Former Montco and Philly Chief Defender Keir Bradford-Grey is running for Pennsylvania attorney general

Bradford-Grey says she wants to look at public safety holistically, and address housing insecurity, climate, and access to quality health care.

Keir Bradford-Grey poses for a photo

Keir Bradford-Grey, former head of the Defenders Association of Philadelphia,, poses for a photograph in Philadelphia, Friday, June 16, 2023. Bradford-Grey, a Democrat, announced her candidacy Wednesday in the 2024 election for Pennsylvania attorney general. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Philly’s former Chief Public Defender Keir Bradford-Grey announced Wednesday that she’s running for Pennsylvania attorney general.

Before running the Defender Association of Philadelphia, Bradford-Grey, 48, was the first African American woman to lead Montgomery County’s public defender offices. If elected, she would become Pennsylvania’s first Black attorney general.

Bradford-Grey says she wants to consider public safety from a “holistic perspective,” and address the root causes of crime to improve people’s lives before they enter the criminal legal system.

“…As it relates to housing, as it relates to economic stability, environmental care, and of course access to quality health care, mental and physical — those are the things that I know also help to provide greater opportunities for public safety,” Bradford-Grey said in an interview with WHYY News.

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The Democratic primary field is growing —  so far Bradford-Grey is one of three Democrats who have announced their candidacies, including former Bucks County Solicitor Joe Kahn and Pennsylvania’s former two-time Auditor General Eugene DePasquale.

Bradford-Grey promised to defend against attacks on “women’s rights to access quality health care.” She also said she wants to address environmental issues that impact children’s quality of life.

She prides herself in leading more than 500 staff members with a $50 million budget at Philadelphia’s Defender Association for five years. Before Philly, Governor Josh Shapiro, then a Montgomery County commissioner, elected Bradford-Grey to be Montco’s chief defender in 2012.

She left the Philadelphia Defender Association in 2021 to become a partner at Center City law firm Montgomery McCracken Walker & Rhoads LLP, where she advised businesses, educational organizations, and nonprofits.

In Montgomery County, she built coalitions to offer alternatives to the juvenile legal system through the county’s Big Brothers Big Sisters initiative. She brought “Participatory Defense Hubs” to Montco, a program that helps families navigate and understand the complexities of court systems and processes. She brought those hubs to Philadelphia, where there are now ten locations.

Considering her work in the suburbs, Bradford-Grey said she is most proud of her work in Norristown School District.

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“We were able to look at issues related to the school-to-prison pipeline by creating a youth forum in Norristown School District that stopped unnecessary expulsions and suspensions. And utilize children to come up with resolutions to in-school problems,” Bradford-Grey said.

Bradford-Grey advocated for correcting racial disparities in the criminal legal system and offering alternative pathways to incarceration. She led the Defender Association in its work to free incarcerated people from city jails under emergency motions because of the COVID-19 pandemic. And she spearheaded Philadelphia’s Pre-Entry Initiative, which connects people after they’ve been arrested to social services, such as drug treatment programs, to avoid jail time or cash bail.

Bringing her public defense background to the position, Bradford-Grey wants to expand the common understanding of the role of attorney general, “and why different people with different skills and different leadership opportunities fit in it.” If successful, she would be Pennsylvania’s first attorney general who has worked predominantly as a public defender, according to the Associated Press.

“I’ve used my law degree to represent people in the most vulnerable positions,” Bradford-Grey said. “So if I can help them, I know I can help anybody and everyone who will need that same opportunity for a fair shot.”

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