By Harrison Jacobs
Business Insider
November 7, 2017

The Philadelphia district attorney race has generated an almost unheard of amount of press attention and enthusiasm for a local election, due in large part to civil rights attorney Larry Krasner’s blunt platform.

He calls for an end to “mass incarceration,” the constellation of state and federal policies that have put more than 2 million Americans behind bars.

Krasner won in a blowout, according to the Associated Press, besting his Republican opponent Beth Grossman with approximately 75% of the vote.

Krasner told Business Insider last week that the enthusiasm around the Philadelphia DA race illustrates a deeper point about the increasing importance of local elections, particularly for those who believe the criminal justice system needs to be reformed — an increasingly mainstream view held by both conservatives and liberals cross the country.

DAs “have so much power to stay their hand or use an iron fist” on those involved in the criminal justice system, Krasner said, that electing progressive-minded people to the position makes “a tremendous difference.”

Krasner isn’t the only one to recognize the outsized impact that district attorneys can have on reform.

Over the last several years, criminal justice activists have centered their efforts around electing progressive district attorneys, an acknowledgement that DAs make the day-to-day decisions of what cases to pursue, what charges to press, and who gets a second chance.

Much of that push has been led by billionaire financier George Soros, and his “Safety and Justice” PACs, which funneled more than $3 million into seven DA races in 2016. The PACs reportedly put more than $1 million behind the Krasner campaign, a fact detractors have repeatedly seized upon.

Electing progressive DAs, according to Krasner, not only affects criminal justice in the cities they are elected in, but can also establish the legitimacy of reform efforts on a national level, provided those efforts are successful.

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