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Five Dems Are Vying For AG Nomination in Primary

The Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office is often a stepping stone to the governor’s mansion. Perhaps that’s why so many Democrats want to follow in Gov. Josh Shapiro’s footsteps.

Four of the five Democrats running to fill the vacancy created when then-Attorney General Shapiro was elected governor hail from the Delaware Valley: Delaware County District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer, former Bucks County Solicitor Joe Khan, former chief public defender for Philadelphia Keir Bradford-Grey, and Rep. Jared Solomon (D-Philadelphia).

Pittsburgh Democrat and former two-term Auditor General Eugene DePasquale is also running.

Keir Bradford-Grey

Shapiro appointed Keir Bradford-Grey as chief public defender for Montgomery County. She was later hired to serve as chief defender of the Defender Association of Philadelphia, the state’s largest. She claims to have reformed the office while overseeing a staff of 500 and managing a $50 million budget, according to her website.

She used “a data-driven approach” to make changes in the office to “lay the foundation for effective criminal justice reform.”

During a March 12 debate on ABC 27, Bradford-Grey was asked why Pennsylvanians should vote for her to be attorney general when she’s been a public defender.

“I’m running to be the people’s lawyer,” she said. “And that’s what the attorney general is in every other state other than Pennsylvania. It is the one that protects people at their most basic need. And it makes sure that not only do we take on the people that are harming people on the street corners, but we go after people in the board room…And I have the opportunity to make sure that women have very protected rights in their reproductive systems…no one can fight for women better than a woman.”

DePasquale is a former state legislator and served two-terms as state auditor general.

Eugene DePasquale

In the same debate, DePasquale was asked about being “a professional office seeker.”

“I’ve run statewide twice, and I’ve won twice,” said DePasquale. “I’ve won once when Trump was on the ballot. Why was I able to win? Because people know my record of fighting for Pennsylvania. My investigation found over 300,000 untested rape kits. Working hard, I brought justice to victims.”

Now in private practice, Khan served as Bucks County solicitor. He’s also been an assistant district attorney in Philadelphia and a federal prosecutor and has represented municipal, county, and state governments. Khan is the brother of state Rep. Tarik Khan (D-Philadelphia).

Khan lost a primary in 2017 to Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner, and during the debate, he was asked about his electability.

“This isn’t about just winning the Democratic primary but winning the general election,” said Khan. “And this is a really, really tough election for Democrats to win.” Only two Democrats have ever won the attorney general’s race, he said. “Because they have painted the Democratic nominee as being soft on crime.” But before becoming the Bucks County solicitor, Khan said, he was a “career prosecutor.”

Joe Khan

Solomon worked in private practice, then joined the Army Reserves as a JAG officer and currently serves in the Pennsylvania National Guard. He was elected to the state House in 2016, beating a 42-year incumbent.

Solomon, who is running for both offices simultaneously, was told the “good government activists say ‘run for one.'”

“I protected us from Trump Republicans who are threatening our abortion and voting rights,” said Solomon. “I want to be your next attorney general because I want to protect our fundamental rights.”

Stollsteimer has twice been elected district attorney for Delaware County. He was hired as an assistant district attorney in 2000 before becoming a policy analyst and special assistant U.S. attorney for the Project Safe Neighborhoods gun violence initiative in 2001. In 2004, he was appointed assistant U.S. attorney and assigned to lead a gun violence task force.

Rep. Jared Solomon

Both Stollsteimer and Solomon are up on the air with TV ads.

Solomon touts his “A” grade with Planned Parenthood and “F” ranking from the National Rifle Association. Stollsteimer’s ads feature the tagline “You don’t know Jack” and emphasize his record as a DA who brought down crime in the City of Chester.

During the debate, Stollsteimer was asked what he would say to voters who think reducing the prison population by 30 percent is dangerous.

“Anybody who would say that would be completely wrong,” said Stollsteimer, who said they are balancing criminal justice reform with public safety. Delaware County had the only privately run prison in the state when he was elected, and he led the effort to de-privatize it. They’ve reduced the prison population by 40 percent “by keeping low-level offenders out of the criminal justice system and giving the help they need for redemption,” he said.

Delaware County District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer

Bruce L. Castor Jr., former Montgomery County district attorney, who served as acting attorney general after Democrat Kathleen Kane was convicted for perjury, agreed the Attorney General’s Office often leads to the governorship in Pennsylvania.

“A reputed centrist candidate from the southeast in either party gives that party a huge leg up in eventually the run for governor.  We have always known this. So, the focus now by statewide political leaders on both sides is on who they are hoping to maneuver to run for governor six years from now,” said Castor. “So, what ‘matters’ is which candidate has the credentials (prosecutor experience both appointed and elected) to be elected attorney general now, has won elections at least at the ‘county’ level from the southeast, where 40 percent of the people live.”

“Naturally, I am a Republican and want Republicans to win,” said Castor. “Looking at all the candidates objectively, however, I see DA Jack Stollsteimer as best at checking off all the boxes.

“If I was analyzing the long-term prospects for the two parties through the “AG” – ‘Almost Governor’ – lens, he’s who I see as best positioned.”

Whichever of these five gets the nod from Democratic primary voters on April 23 will face one of the two Republican candidates in the fall:  Dave Sunday or Rep. Craig Williams.


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Sunday, Williams Face Off in GOP Primary for Attorney General

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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