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Finally, This District Attorney Shitshow Will Be Half-Over


Anyone else tired of this election few will show up for?

Let’s soak up some quick stats about how District Attorney elections go in Philly.   Ready?

Election YearTurnout
2013 Primary – Democrats58,002
2013 Primary – Republicans6,419
2013 Primary Turnout64,421
2009 Primary – Democrats104,600
2009 Primary – Republicans8,497
2009 Primary Turnout113,097

2009 was the year Rufus Seth Williams was first up for election and there was some competition to snag the job, so that primary attracted more voters.  He faced some heavy Democratic competition from Daniel McCaffery–now a judge on the Common Pleas court thanks to the Coffee Can of Justice working out in his favor.

In 2013 when it came time for Rufus to clock in his sleeper of a re-election hardly anyone showed up.

That story would have repeated itself again this year if it weren’t for Seth Williams realizing that the public would soon learn what he did to his mother in a Federal criminal indictment which could revisit the same ego-crushing embarrassment as what befell Chaka Fattah a year before when voters ejected the congressman from his Democratic primary under the cloud of an indictment.



There are 35,000 fewer Democrats than there was when Seth Williams took his job.  For today’s primary if turnout is lucky to reach the level seen in 2009 then only 11% of all the registered voters in Philly will be deciding who gets the top law enforcement job.

Roughly 7 out of 100 people will be deciding how the rest of us will be governed.*

Wards Matter In Low Turnout

Sample ballot given out by committee people outside polling stations

Sample ballot given out by committee people outside polling stations

As you’re voting today there’s probably someone with a frowny face who doesn’t look like they’re all that excited to be there but who will insist on handing you a piece of paper. That piece of paper has a grid on it with a few names in blue and red and it’s called a sample ballot.

And as the voter participation rates continue to drop citywide, the louder the voice of Democratic City Committee loyalists becomes.  This is how DCC loyalists communicate to their voters–telling you how the ward leader who you might not even know wants you to vote.

Traditionally in the four election cycles we have, the cycle that comes after we elect the President is the election where these slips of paper carry the most weight in a Philly election primary.  This is how Philadelphia’s political machine keeps itself relevant and in control.

You’d be surprised how many neophytes know nothing of the candidates and enter a Philly voting machine and copy what’s on this sample ballot on to their choices.  I’ve watched voters with my own eyes copying the racing form right on to the machine.

Understandably this election is going to come down to how widespread the DA candidates got their names printed on red on those sample ballot papers.  There’s also been plenty of drama with sample ballots in years past with some committeepeople and ward leaders striking off names or layering stickers to override what they printed.

Most of this DA’s election has been a war over collecting ward leaders like Pokémon.  It’s the 66 ward leaders who arrange getting these ballot papers printed and it’s the committeepeople who man the polling stations handing these out.   This is how political machines keep tight control over who gets elected to the posts that influences your life the most.

All The Candidates Are the Same, Except That Dude With the Red Beard

Remember that we got Seth Williams by bleak voter participation and lousy vetting.   That factor is still ever-present.   I had a look-see at PhillyMag‘s voter guide and there’s hardly any take-away out of all these look-alike candidates, all touting policies that mostly drift far to the left.

Since they’re mostly repeating the same lines the only way to tell them apart is by identity and background.

The candidates likely to win this Democratic primary are in red.

Larry Krasner is the prog darling who can do no wrong and has no faults, other than he’s never been a prosecutor his entire life or managed a large legal office; the Philly DAO is one of the country’s larger legal shops.  Folks are hoping that if Krasner drives the bus then the District Attorney’s Office will drop more cases that the Police send them.  He already apparently is giving some current and former workers at the DA’s office heartburn as they expect the backbiting office politics that are there now to dramatically increase as he tries to implement whatever reform ideas he has in mind.

If you’re mad as hell at this pot party bust and wished the DA’s office pushed back on charges, well… Krasner is your guy.

Joe Khan has a fair amount of prosecutorial experience both at the DA and Federal.  He’s snagged much of the Riverwards ward leaders where vote presence is “meh” at best but he’s got commitments from committee people in the Northeast.  Out of all the peeps I know who are both in and out of the DA’s office, this is who they’re leaning for.

Team Khan also did an internal poll showing that he’s neck and neck with Krasner as far as popular support goes, so there’s that.

Michael Untermeyer has bought a lot of ward support and collected ward leaders in his basket in enough far-flung areas and backed that up with advertising on basic.  He’s sunk quite a fortune into this short primary. Position-wise he’s still to the left.   He’s run for this office before (as a Republican).

Jack O’Neil is obviously Johnny Doc’s bitch; plus he (and Doc) are banking on that apostrophe in his surname is sure to get some button-pressin’ by a few of the cloverleafed set in the Northeast, which is also the only place he’s managed to snag ward leader endorsement.

I can’t think of many Northeast Democrats who’ve won citywide races in the last decade.  Can you?

Also: If you’re not a fan of Johnny Doc’s Soda Tax, then don’t vote for his people.  Just say NO to Johnny Doc.  Tell this kid to beat it.

Tariq El Shabazz actually looks more centrist than the other candidates if you’re shopping for someone who’s slightly to the right of anarcho-communism.  But there’s his enormous IRS tax liens he refuses to talk about, his campaign has no cash and the ward leaders who have committed themselves to him command no vote presence. And there’s that whole thing with him being Seth Williams’ best pal all these years.  Seth’s downfall is why we’re having this contested election in the first place so for a lotta people having someone in the Seth Circuit up as a candidate is just a complete non-starter.

At least he tried.

Richard Negrin got ward leader support in all the wrong areas of Philly–mostly the wards where turnout is simply abysmal.  Plus the FOP endorsed him which is the Kiss ‘O Death to progressive voters.  The thought here is that some law-enforcement folks see the writing on the wall and recognize that allegiances are split, e.g. the Northeast is where a lot of law enforcement lives and you got O’Neill poaching voters there and Khan doesn’t have the stink of either the DCC machine or Johnny Doc on him and is a viable alternative.

Theresa Carr Deni – Not a single ward committed to backing her.   We’ll get to see whether she comes in last or not.

Whoever wins this Democratic primary has to face Republican candidate Beth Grossman in the general election this November.


Be sure to turn to Philly Hot Election Results after 8:30 when the first cartridges from the machines come in.

*1.562 million people live in Philly according to the latest Census projection.