On April 23, Pennsylvania Republicans — and only registered Republicans — will pick their party’s nominee for attorney general. Two candidates, York County District Attorney Dave Sunday and Delaware Valley state Rep. Craig Williams, hope to get the nod.

The attorney general is arguably the second most powerful state official after the governor. In several recent cases, the Attorney General’s Office became a stepping stone to the governor’s mansion, including for the current governor, Josh Shapiro (D). Former Republican Gov. Tom Corbett also previously served as attorney general.

Attorney Bruce L. Castor Jr., a former Montgomery County DA and county commissioner, is a Republican who served as acting attorney general after Democrat Kathleen Kane resigned following a conviction on perjury charges.

“The attorney general election is important mostly because it is a stepping-stone to the nomination for governor,” said Castor. “Most people think the attorney general is primarily a prosecutor. While that is far from the truth, perception is what matters. That is the only state row office which receives broad public attention.”

State Rep. Craig Williams

Sunday and Williams told DVJournal they are focused on the Attorney General’s Office and have no plans to run for governor.

“I think Pennsylvania is at a crossroads,” said Sunday, who has the endorsement of the state GOP. “If we can’t make our communities safer and healthier for our families and children, nothing else matters.”  Sunday is concerned about the world his third-grade son will grow up in.

Williams said, “I am focused on making Pennsylvania a safe place to live, work, and raise a family.”

And Williams said that he can win the general election over whichever Democrat wins the primary.

“I have the most breadth of experience,” said Williams, who represents parts of Chester and Delaware Counties. “I have run two times in 2020 and 2022 in the state House elections that nobody thought I could win because of the political climate, be it Trump or abortion. I worked my tail off, and I brought a narrative that was winning, which is one of public service, being a community-minded guy, and being a tenacious fighter. And those narratives brought me home to two victories.”

Williams is a former federal prosecutor who served in Colorado and Philadelphia. Williams also served in the Marine Corps for nearly three decades, flew 56 combat missions, was decorated for valor in battle, and retired as a colonel. While in the Marines, he was a prosecutor and worked on the Joint Terrorism Task Force. Williams served as deputy legal counsel to the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the war on terror.

Sunday is a Navy veteran who was deployed to the Persian Gulf and put himself through college and law school while working for UPS. He leads a large office that prosecutes about 9,000 cases annually. Sunday was previously chief deputy prosecutor of litigation. Twice elected district attorney, Sunday said his approach to public safety resulted in a 30 percent decrease in crime during his first term and reductions in the prison population by almost 40 percent since its peak, a reduced supervision caseload. He noted a recent study conducted by Indiana University of Pennsylvania shows offenders in York County have the lowest recidivism rate over five years compared to seven other counties.

“My philosophy of criminal justice is accountability and redemption,” Sunday told DVJournal. A lot of crime

York County District Attorney Dave Sunday

comes from drug addiction and mental illness, he said.

He started the York Opioid Collaborative, working with families, the “faith-based community,” and hospitals to “do everything we can to get people into treatment.”

Williams has used his legislative position to attack crime, including passing a law for a special prosecutor for crime on and near SEPTA and a crime and gun task force. He also led the charge to impeach progressive Philadelphia DA Larry Krasner, whose bail “reforms” and downgrading of gun charges have been blamed for spiking violent crime in the city that spills over to the suburbs.

At their debate, Sunday said he opposes Krasner’s impeachment and would allow the voters to decide the matter.

Sunday’s call for redemption means “emptying jails” and “fewer prison sentences,” Williams said.

Williams pointed out that Sunday was a Democrat until he was 37 and ran for DA in a conservative county, while Williams is a lifelong Republican.

Sunday’s “troubling record on public safety, evidenced by York’s murder rate surpassing Philadelphia’s, casts doubt on the authenticity of his 2013 switch to the Republican Party,” said Mark Campbell, Williams’ campaign manager.

Sunday said he switched from the “blue dog” Democratic party of his working-class family to Republican when he realized the Democrats were no longer in synch with his values. He said he voted for John McCain in 2008.

Castor said he has concerns about the “flexible” scruples of a candidate who changed parties. But “if the ‘party-flipper’ is the party-endorsed candidate, though, (they) can use that as a counterweight. Under these facts, I suspect party-flipping is not a major issue with the party endorsement providing cover.”

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