Surprises, change abound in Philadelphia Democratic primary

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    Philadelphia City Controller Rebecca Rhynhart is auditing the city's payouts to settle claims of sexual harassment.  (Emma Lee/WHYY)

    Philadelphia City Controller Rebecca Rhynhart is auditing the city's payouts to settle claims of sexual harassment. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

    Democrats in Philadelphia who took to the polls for Tuesday’s primary election shook up things. The primary made national headlines as Larry Krasner became the party’s candidate for Philadelphia district attorney, and they picked Rebecca Rhynhart, former Mayor Michael Nutter’s budget director, over long-time incumbent Alan Butkovitz for city controller.

    Krasner, who got big financial help with a $1.45-million donation from George Soros, rode a seemingly progressive wave to victory in the primary.

    “He got a gift from the heavens from George Soros,” Dave Davies, WHYY’s senior reporter, said. “If that was all he had going, it wouldn’t have worked. But he had a solid base among progressive Democrats, and it made it easier for donors and other politicians to believe he could win.”

    Davies also credits Krasner drawing endorsements from a number of African-American political leaders, such as Marian Tasco, and that helped his credibility. This was also the first time voters took to the polls since Nov. 8, and he says that an anti-Trump wave helped spark more interest.

    “My estimate is that Democratic turnout in this race was 50 percent higher than eight years ago the last time this office was open,” Davies said. “That was a big thing, too.”

    Rhynhart’s victory over Butkovitz was the biggest stunner of the evening. Most conventional wisdom had the three-term incumbent Butkovitz, with the support of the city’s Democratic machine, easily winning.

    “This is remarkable,” Davies said, noting that he also predicted an easy win for Butkovitz. “Rhynhart just blew the doors off here. She painted Butkovitz as a career politician, and I have to suspect again this surge of post-Trump energy really emerged and chose her over a guy who was seen as part of the establishment.”

    For more of Dave Davies’ thoughts on Tuesday’s primary, listen to the interview at the top of the page.

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