New DA candidate jumps into crowded Philly field

     Former prosecutor Jack O’Neill is the latest candidate in the race for Philadelphia district attorney. (Photo supplied by candidate)

    Former prosecutor Jack O’Neill is the latest candidate in the race for Philadelphia district attorney. (Photo supplied by candidate)

    Just hours before the filing deadline Tuesday, a new candidate jumped into the Democratic primary for Philadelphia district attorney.

    Jack O’Neill, a 35-year-old former prosecutor, said he filed 1,776 signatures on his nominating petitions at City Hall.

    “I didn’t plan it,” O’Neill said in a phone interview of the patriotic number. “It just came out that way.”

    O’Neill dropped his papers off without ever having publicly announced his candidacy.

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    The working attorney, who is on a trial now, said he’ll make a formal announcement Sunday..

    O’Neill said he spent 10 years as an assistant district attorney, more than six in the special victims unit and the rest working homicide cases.

    Running for citywide office is a pretty big project, and he’s starting with no name recognition and no campaign fund yet. I politely noted that he’s getting into this pretty late and asked, why now?

    “I was not interested in being in a race that was just about attacking (incumbent District Attorney) Seth Williams for his personal problems,” O’Neill said.

    Now that Williams is out of the race, O’Neill said, the candidates can focus on the real issues.

    He added that he thinks Williams “did a lot of great things” with the office.

    O’Neill said he saw some very tough cases in the special victims unit and that his priorities will be ensuring justice for victims, and focusing on the opioid addiction in the city.

    O’Neill joins a field that includes Democrats Joe Khan, Teresa Carr Deni, Rich Negrin, Michael Untermeyer, Larry Krasner, and Tariq El-Shabazz, and Republican Beth Grossman.

    Other contests

    The other competitive non-judicial race in Philadelphia is the Democratic primary for city controller, where incumbent Alan Butkovitz and announced-challenger Rebecca Rhynhart both filed nominating petitions as expected.

    They were joined by a third Democrat — Bobby Curry from Northwest Philadelphia, who’s run in the past for City Council and state representative.

    Mike Tomlinson is unopposed on the Republican ballot.

    There’s also a Pennsylvania Supreme Court seat on the ballot, and the candidates of the Republican and Democratic parties are both unopposed in the primaries. Justice Sallie Mundy, who was appointed by Gov. Tom Wolf to fill a vacancy, is the Republican candidate. Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Dwayne Woodruff is the Democratic candidate.

    In addition, there are 10 candidates for four vacancies on the Superior Court, and eight candidates for two vacancies on the Commonwealth Court.

    The primary election is May 16.

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