Krasner could have a Republican challenger come November

Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner (left) and defense attorney A. Charles Peruto. (Matt Rourke/AP Photo; peruto.com)

Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner (left) and defense attorney A. Charles Peruto. (Matt Rourke/AP Photo; peruto.com)

Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner may have a Republican challenger when November’s general election rolls around.

On Tuesday, veteran defense attorney A. Charles Peruto, one of Krasner’s harshest critics, will formally announce his bid to become the city’s top prosecutor. A news conference is scheduled for 10 a.m. outside of the Juanita Kidd Stout Center for Criminal Justice.

Peruto said Krasner’s progressive policies are dangerous for Philadelphia.

“If he had any love for the city, which he’s not from, he would resign,” he said.

Peruto plans to campaign on reducing gun violence in the city, a perennial problem that has gotten significantly worse during the COVID-19 pandemic.

At least 54 people have been murdered so far this year, a 35% increase compared to the same time in 2020, the deadliest year in three decades.

More than 170 people, mostly Black men, have been shot in 2021 compared to 98 this time last year, according to police.

If elected, Peruto said his administration would aggressively prosecute drug dealers, push for mandatory treatment in cases involving drug-motivated crimes, and call on judges to hand out stiff sentences to people charged with illegal gun possession or firing a gun.

“Gun violence on our streets is going to stop the day after the election,” said Peruto.

Krasner is set to face former Assistant District Attorney Carlos Vega in May’s Democratic primary.

Vega, who prosecuted homicides, was laid off in 2017 following Krasner’s election. Like Peruto, he blames Krasner for the bloodshed the city has endured during his first term in office.

Peruto said he will not run if his longtime friend is able to defeat Krasner in the primary.

“It’s not about me, it’s about the city of Philadelphia,” said Peruto. “Carlos Vega has good ideas and he would make a fine district attorney.”

As the election nears, Krasner has started holding regular press briefings to tout his office’s work, offering a competing narrative to the criticisms levelled against him as gun violence in the city has surged.

On Monday, Krasner focused on his office’s efforts around juvenile justice. The briefings have also detailed the office’s Private Criminal Complaint Unit, which seeks to resolve interpersonal incidents through court mediation instead of criminal charges, as well as the Philadelphia CARES program, a rapid-response initiative designed to help families of murder victims in the immediate aftermath of a killing.

Asked about Peruto’s candidacy on Monday, Krasner declined to directly address his run.

“We will not know who’s running against us until they have fulfilled the requirements, which include among other things, getting a bunch of signatures,” said Krasner. “We’ll be happy to address whoever it is believes they have ideas to bring forward.

“I suspect this entire election, without naming any candidate, is gonna be a referendum,” he added. “Do you like the past? Do you like the future? I think Philadelphians are pretty clear on what they want.”

Krasner, a former civil rights attorney, was sworn into office in 2018 after running on a campaign to beat back the inequities of the criminal justice system. His reelection campaign has already drawn donations from wealthy champions of progressive causes, including pop star John Legend and Zillow founder Richard Barton, while Vega has gotten support from the city’s police union and former DA staffers.

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