Lauren Mayk

Philly DA Krasner Wins Democratic Primary Over Challenger Vega

District Attorney Larry Krasner's re-election bid was seen as a litmus test for the progressive criminal justice movement nationally

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What to Know

  • The district attorney's race highlighted the Democratic primary in Philadelphia.
  • Statewide ballot questions also were up for all registered voters, including two that asked whether the legislature should usurp some of the governor's powers in an emergency.
  • Myriad judicial races were also on the ballot, including a state Supreme Court seat. The winners of the judicial races will face off in the November general election.

Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner won the Democratic primary on Tuesday night, with a large lead over challenger Carlos Vega, who conceded the race shortly before midnight.

The win makes Krasner the strong favorite for re-election in November, paving the way for another four years for his social justice reform agenda. The race was seen as an early referendum on a progressive movement to overhaul the criminal justice system not only in Philadelphia, but nationally. 

Krasner had about 65% of the vote shortly after 2 a.m. Wednesday, according to the city's election website. His biggest obstacle to victory on Election Night proved not to be Vega, but malfunctioning vote-counting machines.

LIVE ELECTION RESULTS: For the latest returns in the Pennsylvania primary, including ballots questions and statewide judicial races, click here for NBC10's live tracker.

Krasner greeted a small group of supporters shortly after 11 p.m. during a gathering at the Sonesta Hotel in Center City. During a speech, he claimed victory and promised four more years of reform for the city's criminal justice system.

Vega did not allow members of the media to attend his Election Night event in the Far Northeast section of Philadelphia. He issued a statement that said, "My campaign was first and foremost about lifting up the voice of victims who have been forgotten by the current Administration. I hope they were heard."

Krasner's victory Tuesday likely assures his re-election ahead of the November general election, as registered Democrats outnumber Republicans in Philadelphia by a 7-to-1 margin. His opponent later this year, defense attorney Charles Peruto Jr., has raised little money and done little in the way of campaigning since he announced his candidacy in March.

Also on the ballot in Pennsylvania on Tuesday were four ballot questions and myriad judicial races, from seats on municipal and Common Pleas courts all the way up to the state Supreme Court. The winners of the primary elections will face off in November. 

Two of those ballot measures have passed, according to the Associated Press: a proposal to amend the state constitution to outlaw discrimination based on race and ethnicity and a proposal to allow municipal fire and emergency services departments to borrow money.

Votes are still being counted to decide the fate of the other two measures, which surround the governor's powers in an emergency. A majority of Pennsylvania voters have never rejected a ballot question, according to Ballotpedia. Between 1995 and 2019, 17 of 17 ballot questions were approved by voters, according to the online election portal.

First elected in 2017, Krasner, a former civil rights attorney, has turned law enforcement on its head, pushing to end mass incarceration and hold police officers more accountable for their actions.

But he faced a formidable challenge from Vega, who emphasized an increase in gun violence in Philadelphia during the campaign and received support from the city’s police union, the Fraternal Order of Police.

The police union and Krasner have butted heads since the district attorney took office in 2018. Meanwhile, Vega was able to connect with some of the city’s voters who felt that Krasner cared more about reform than public safety.

Vega is a former assistant district attorney who worked in the DA’s office for 35 years before Krasner fired him and dozens of other ADAs who were not seen as compliant with Krasner’s new agenda.

Election Night got off to a rocky start in Philadelphia, when a malfunction by vote-counting machines led Philadelphia election officials to have to manually open the thousands of mail-in ballots submitted by voters in the Tuesday primary, officials said.

An election official said the machines handling mail-in ballots were "nicking" the ballots, causing damage as they were opened.

The opening of the mail-in ballots by hand slowed the returns and led to a delay in Krasner claiming victory.

Another localized problem occurred in Delaware County, outside Philadelphia, where voters overwhelmed several precincts, causing delays when poll workers didn't have enough printed ballots. A county spokeswoman defended the number of ballots printed prior to Election Day and said the turnout exceeded expectations.

Still, the spokeswoman said, every voter eventually received a ballot.

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