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Philly DA Larry Krasner, who defeated six other candidates in the Democratic primary four years ago, now faces only one challenger in his first bid for re-election, a former assistant district attorney who Krasner fired after taking office.
Carlos Vega is the lone challenger in the May 18 Democratic primary, and he is making the election a referendum on Krasner's progressive reform agenda. Vega believes Krasner is a key contributor to Philadelphia historically high homicides and shootings since the start of 2020. Krasner and his supporters say national trends showing gun violence rising across the United States rebukes Vega's argument.
The candidates will make their case to Philadelphia voters on live television and radio tonight during the lone debate between the two candidates ahead of the May 18 Democratic primary.
The hourlong debate will be moderated by NBC10 and KYW Newsradio reporters. It will be broadcast live at 7 p.m. on NBC10, as well as on NBC10.com and the NBC10 app and NBC10's Roku TV and Apple TV apps.
It can be heard live on KYW Newsradio at 103.9 FM and 1060 AM.
Krasner has not disappointed his progressive supporters. He led an overhaul of Philadelphia's cash bail system, supported decriminalization of certain minor crimes, and has vigorously pushed for better policing.
That last priority has made the city police union a constant foe to Krasner's reform agenda.
Vega told NBC10 that he is excited to debate Krasner on the issues.
"I'm absolutely looking forward to sharing my vision for safety and reform," he said. "I never thought I’d run for office. For 35 years, I devoted my life to public service, working on the frontlines protecting our communities as a prosecutor. This moment of crisis in our city demands serious leadership and bold action. And Philadelphians need and deserve a more responsible approach to reforming our criminal justice system and prosecuting violent crime."
Krasner, who describes Vega as a "part of the old regime" of criminal justice, has long denied the connection between his office's reforms and the rise in violence in the city.
Philadelphia has seen a large increase in homicides and shootings since the start of 2020, but so have many other American cities.
Homicides are up 30, 40, even 50% year over year in places like Chicago, Oklahoma City, New York City, Los Angeles and Phoenix, to name just of a few. Experts believe the pandemic played a large part in a conflux of problems that created historically high homicide totals across the country.
"He is excited for the debate because unlike his opponent, he knows that the facts and his record are both on his side," Krasner's campaign manager, Brandon Evans, told NBC10. "He does not have to twist the truth or pretend to be someone he isn’t to try to appeal to voters. The easiest story to tell is one that is true. Larry has truth on his side."
Four years ago, Krasner also had billionaire George Soros on his side. The progressive philanthropist spent millions on local DA's races across the country hoping to reform criminal justice, and he pumped nearly $1.5 million into political advertising that supported Krasner's promise to end mass incarceration in Philadelphia.
Vega was among three dozen veteran prosecutors in the DA's office who were let go as Krasner changed the culture of the office.
"Carlos Vega’s way of doing things is simply to turn back the clock to a time when convictions were pursued regardless of truth, where the (District Attorney's Office) did not worry about mistakes, and where it never dared question police or hold law enforcement accountable," Evans said Tuesday. "His approach does not work for the good of this city and it would be devastating to stop the progress that we have made and return to the ways of the past."
Vega said the biggest failure of Krasner's tenure has been the incumbent's inability to keep Philadelphians safe.
"Four years ago, Larry Krasner promised us justice that would make us safer. But his failure to address violent crime, and his reckless approach to reform has made Philadelphia more dangerous today than before he took office," Vega said.
Krasner and Vega had nearly identical amounts of campaign cash at the start of April, according to their finance reports. Each had roughly $350,000, though Krasner had already spent about $250,000 in the previous few months while Vega had spent about $100,000.
The next campaign finance reports are due in early May.
HOW TO VOTE IN MAY 18 PRIMARY: Registered Democrats in Philadelphia will be able to cast votes in the race between Vega and Krasner. The deadline to register to vote or to change your party designation was May 3. Voters can vote by mail or in person. Mail-in applications are due by May 11. CLICK HERE to apply.