Untermeyer Ahead in His Own Weeks-Old Poll for Philly DA Race

Photo courtesy of the Untermeyer campaign.

Philadelphia District Attorney candidate Michael Untermeyer has released his own polling data for the May 16th primary — albeit a survey where calls went out from April 30th to May 1st — and has called into question the validity of a poll conducted on behalf of his opponent Joe Khan.

“The results of the survey released by Municipoll on behalf of former George W. Bush administration member Joe Khan has a variety of challenges,” Untermeyer spokesman Sam Miller tells Philly Mag. Read more »

The No-Bullshit Guide to the 2017 Philadelphia Primary

Clockwise: District attorney candidates Larry Krasner, Joe Khan, Rich Negrin, Teresa Carr Deni, Jack O’Neill, Tariq El-Shabazz, Beth Grossman and Michael Untermeyer. | Photos courtesy of the campaigns

Do you loathe that Attorney General Jeff Sessions is doubling down on the War on Drugs? Are you glad he’s finally restoring law and order to the country? Do you think the city spends too much money locking people up? Just enough? Too little? If you answered affirmatively to any of these questions, then you should vote in this year’s district attorney race. The DA prosecutes crimes in Philadelphia, helping to determine whether justice is delivered to victims and how many people end up in prison every year. The choice in front of voters is as important as ever: Current District Attorney Seth Williams has been accused by the feds of seeking thousands of dollars’ worth of bribes and stealing from his own mom.

Voters will also choose Philadelphia’s next city controller, judges, and election board workers on Tuesday, as well as vote on two ballot questions.

Don’t worry if you haven’t paid close attention to these races — it’s why we created this election guide and an accompanying list of endorsements for each candidate in the district attorney race. It’s a ruthlessly honest, easy-to-understand explanation of the candidates’ pros and cons. Here are your choices. Read more »

OPINION: Why Rich Negrin Should Be Our Next DA

Rich Negrin

Richard Negrin | Photo courtesy of Mark Nevins

Next Tuesday our city will have the chance to vote for a new district attorney amid a federal investigation that’s put a dark cloud over the office. With eight candidates running (seven from the Democratic Party), voter turnout might increase in comparison to previous low-turnout cycles. I predict, however, that voter turnout will still not exceed 20 percent because this is not a national election cycle. Further, I predict that three regions will dominate the turnout: Center City, the suburban Northwest, and the working-class Northeast. Given those factors, a thorough process of elimination will leave you with only one candidate able to secure enough votes to come out on top: former city managing director Richard Negrin.

Read more »

The D.A. Candidate Who Threw His Hat in the Ring at the Last Possible Second

Jack O'Neill | Photo courtesy of O'Neill's campaign

Jack O’Neill | Photo courtesy of O’Neill’s campaign

Jack O’Neill kicked off his campaign for district attorney at the last possible minute. Literally.

The first time the 35-year-old Democrat was described as a candidate by the news media was when he submitted 1,776 signatures on his nominating petitions last Tuesday — the deadline for candidates to submit their paperwork to appear on the ballot. Before then, O’Neill hadn’t put out so much as a press release about his electoral ambitions.

Politicos were left scratching their heads: Who is this mystery man? And why would he jump into a race that already had six Democrats at each other’s throats?

“The reason I got in later than most people was because I was not going to run against Seth [Williams] in a campaign that seemed like it was going to be about trashing Seth for his personal problems,” says O’Neill. “I didn’t think it would help the city. I didn’t think it would help the D.A.’s office. I didn’t think it would help people’s confidence in law enforcement.”

O’Neill spoke with Philly Mag last week for nearly an hour. He talked about his experience prosecuting the “Kensington rapist,” his plan to expand the city’s crime-fighting Focused Deterrence program, and why he believes he is the most qualified person in the race to implement big reforms. The interview has been edited and condensed for clarity. Read our Q&As with the other D.A. candidates in the May 16th election here. Read more »

Meet the D.A. Candidate Who Led Philly’s Civil Asset Forfeiture System

Beth Grossman | Photo courtesy of Grossman's campaign

Beth Grossman | Photo courtesy of Grossman’s campaign

Beth Grossman was a prosecutor for more than 20 years, serving in every unit in the Philadelphia District Attorney’s office.

From 2007 to 2015, the Republican led the city’s public nuisance task force, where she shut down nuisance bars, cleaned up abandoned lots, and cracked down on out-of-state slumlords, she says. The task force also handled civil asset forfeiture, which enables district attorneys to seize people’s cash and homes even if they are not convicted of a crime. The system has come under fire nationwide from both liberals and conservatives in recent years; Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas said this month it “has led to egregious and well-chronicled abuses.”

Grossman is proud of her time in charge of the city’s civil asset forfeiture program. She says she used the law to seize drug dealers’ homes and improve the quality of life in neighborhoods. “A neighbor called to thank me for getting rid of a drug house next door to him. He told me that he could now sit on his porch again,” she says. “Enjoying the basic joys and comforts of one’s home without crime negatively affecting his or her safety and quality of life is something that everyone in Philadelphia should be able to do.” Read more »

The D.A. Candidate Who Wants to Stop Prosecuting Most Low-Level Drug Offenses

Joe Khan | Photo courtesy of Khan's campaign

Joe Khan | Photo courtesy of Khan’s campaign

Joe Khan is a young progressive running for district attorney who wants to ditch cash bail, revamp the civil asset forfeiture program, and stop prosecuting most simple drug possession cases. “I think it’s becoming more and more clear,” he says, “that when we talk about the people buying and using opioids or other drugs, that the approach of treating this as a criminal matter is simply just not making sense and is not being an effective use of our resources.”

If Khan’s platform sounds familiar, that’s because civil rights attorney Larry Krasner and ex-prosecutor Michael Untermeyer are also running for D.A. on some of the same ideas. In order to win, Khan will need to set himself apart from the Democratic field. Read more »

This Ex-Republican Running for D.A. Wants Cash Bail to Be Abolished

Michael Untermeyer | Photo courtesy of Untermeyer's campaign

Michael Untermeyer | Photo courtesy of Untermeyer’s campaign.

Michael Untermeyer is complicated.

Back in 2009 and 2011, he ran for local office as a Republican. Today, he’s campaigning for district attorney as a Democrat. “The difference between the Democratic Party and the Republican Party is the Democratic Party really wants government to serve people, which is why I am a Democrat,” he says. “The Republican Party doesn’t want to have government, period.”

Untermeyer’s platform includes a lot of things liberals like: The former prosecutor opposes the death penalty in most cases, vows to keep almost all drug users out of the criminal justice system, and wants cash bail to be abolished. But in this hyper-partisan era, the fact that Untermeyer once flew the GOP’s flag — and told Philly.com that “only a Democrat can win this office” — could turn off some Democratic voters. His past experience working in the civil asset forfeiture unit of the attorney general’s office may also prove a challenge in his quest to become district attorney. Read more »

Meet the D.A. Candidate Who’s Defended Black Lives Matter and Occupy in Court

Larry Krasner 2

Larry Krasner | Photo courtesy of Krasner campaign

When Larry Krasner kicked off his campaign for district attorney in downtown Philadelphia in early February, more than a dozen political activists stood behind him. There were Black Lives Matter leaders, Occupy Philly alumni, and Arch Street United Methodist Church pastors, among others, almost all of whom Krasner has defended in court. “My biggest accomplishment has been to represent individuals,” he says, “as they faced the Goliath that government can be in order to make sure that they got fair trials and that their constitutional rights were preserved.”

In addition to working as a civil-rights attorney, Krasner has served as a city and federal public defender. A few years ago, he famously accused several narcotics officers of misconduct, and D.A. Seth Williams announced afterward that he would no longer call those cops as witnesses. If elected D.A., Krasner promises never to seek the death penalty, to work to eliminate cash bail, and to take other actions aimed at lowering the city’s sky-high incarceration rate. Read more »

D.A. Candidate Donates $250,000 to Own Campaign, Triggering “Millionaire’s Provision”

Left: Michael Untermeyer via Facebook, Right: Seth Williams, photo by Matt Rourke, Associated Press

Left: Michael Untermeyer via Facebook, Right: Seth Williams, photo by Matt Rourke, Associated Press

On Monday, the Philadelphia Board of Ethics announced that Michael Untermeyer, one of five candidates hoping to unseat Seth Williams as district attorney later this year, had donated more than $250,000 of his own money to his campaign effort.

A self-directed donation of that size triggers the so-called “millionaire’s provision” in the local campaign finance law, automatically raising the limit on campaign donations from individuals and political committees. Now, donations will be capped at $6,000 for individuals and $23,800 for political committees, up from $3,000 and $11,900, respectively. The new limits will hold even if Untermeyer quits the race or his campaign returns a portion of his donation, according to an Ethics Board advisory. Read more »

Who’s Behind Phone Survey Critical of Seth Williams?

seth-williams-940x540

The other day I answered a phone call and found myself taking a 15-minute survey about District Attorney Seth Williams and a former and possible future challenger, Michael Untermeyer.

I was trying not to provide strong opinions (which as a reporter I of course don’t have to begin with), but I wanted to hear the questions, so I used the words “uncertain” and “somewhat” a lot. It was a pretty eye-opening survey, even as someone who’s followed the recent news about Williams fairly closely.  Read more »