'Criminal justice reform just won a big one': Krasner takes Democratic primary for Philly DA

Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner.
Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner. Photo credit Scott Heins/Getty Images

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — A contentious campaign in the Democratic primary race for Philadelphia district attorney has ended with incumbent Larry Krasner declaring victory.

"We in this movement for criminal justice reform just won a big one," he said late Tuesday night.

While Carlos Vega held a private event, not open to the media, the Krasner campaign declared victory around 11 p.m., with just about one-third of the in-person votes counted. Krasner then addressed his supporters.

"Four years ago, we promised reform and a focus on serious crime. People believed at that point what were ideas, promises, and they voted us into office with a mandate, and we kept those promises. People saw what we did, and this time they re-elected us and put us back into office," he said.

At midnight Wednesday morning, Krasner had a 30% lead on Vega an advantage of about 38,900 votes with 90% of election divisions reporting.

Challenger Carlos Vega conceded to Krasner in a statement emailed late Tuesday night, saying that his campaign was significantly outspent by Krasner's.

"I feel that D.A. Krasner has not lived up to the promises that he originally ran on, and that the spike in gun violence we are experiencing is not being taken seriously," Vega said.

“I congratulate my opponent for winning this campaign, and once again thank my supporters and particularly the victims of crime for stepping up and opening their hearts to their fellow Philadelphians.”

Krasner and Vega's campaign was filled with rancor, including a debate live on KYW Newsradio and NBC10 where the incumbent accused Vega of "a lasagna of lies" with the claims he made about Krasner's record.

Vega responded with vehement criticisms of Krasner's philosophy about the position, saying "we want a prosecutor, not a social worker here."

The debate ended with a tense off-air argument between the two. Vega said to Krasner, "I'm your worst nightmare."

Through the heated election, famous people like John Legend and Ben Cohen rallied for his win, as did activist Shaun King, who attended his watch party. Yet most of the money Krasner raised was out-of-state.

Vega led a more grassroots campaign, with most of his funding coming from inside the city. Vega was backed by the police union, former prosecutors and former Gov. Ed Rendell, his former boss.

Krasner said he was running on his record of decreasing incarceration and supervision, and holding police accountable, while achieving an 85% conviction rate on shootings.

His challenger painted a different picture — of an office staffed by inexperienced and ineffective prosecutors who fail to win convictions. He put responsibility for the city’s violent crime epidemic squarely on the D.A.

Republican Charles Peruto, a Philadelphia defense attorney who has represented high-profile criminal suspects for decades, will now challenge Krasner in the general election in November.

Peruto may be best known for an incident in 2013, when his girlfriend was dating was found dead in his Rittenhouse Square house. He was found to have been uninvolved in the death.

He says the district attorney's office needs to be tougher on crime than it has been under Krasner. However, he has been clear about his intentions, saying he is mostly interested in unseating the district attorney, even going so far as to say he would drop his candidacy if Krasner lost in the Democratic primary.

Given Tuesday's result, it looks like the race is on, in a city where Democrats outnumber Republicans about 8 to 1.