Everyone’s favorite Commonwealth held its 2021 primaries last week and the results revealed some unexpected turns of events. A progressive DA prevailed, a Mayor got the hook and COVID restrictions were rejected.
The most high-profile race coming into Election Day was Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner’s re-election contest.
When Krasner first won the DA’s office back in 2017, he was at the forefront of a new progressive approach to law enforcement. Throughout his tenure, the city’s Fraternal Order of Police served as his principal opponents, and they pulled out all the stops to defeat him. Given that policing is perhaps the most incendiary issue in America at the moment, a battle like this was destined to have national implications.
The critical question was whether a progressive prosecutor could still build a coalition after four years in office. Since Krasner won his first primary with just 59,368 votes (38%) in a crowded field, his foes were convinced a concerted effort could throw him out of office.
Krasner instead more than doubled his previous total, receiving 127,052 votes (67%) to Vega’s 63,290 (33%).
In retrospect, it’s apparent that Vega and his backers never made any headway among Black voters and therefore never had any viable path to victory. Krasner’s re-election suggests that, at least in major cities, being branded as a leftist is not a handicap.
Shocker in Steel City
Speaking of which, Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto suffered a stunning upset after he lost his left flank.
Progressive were outraged at Peduto for his handling of last year’s protests, to the point that several times they gathered outside the Mayor’s home. State Rep. Ed Gainey exploited these fissures and won the backing of several labor unions and liberal colleagues in the State House.
Additionally, it appears that Peduto was suffering from a wave of incumbent fatigue, as Mayors in both Harrisburg and Allentown were upset as well. Political observers in Pittsburgh also felt Peduto’s loss was due, at least in part, to his detached personality. They believed that while he was generally politically talented, his propensity to favor ideas rather than people made him ill-suited for the job of Mayor.
As for the man himself, Peduto would tell Gainey during his concession call that he’d lost the support of the youth, and advised Gainey to not repeat that mistake.
Clean Sweep for State Legislators and COVID Referendums
Four open seats in Harrisburg were filled last week, two in the State Senate and two in the State House, although none saw a party switch.
Republicans were hopeful, however, that they could pull off an upset in the 22nd Senate district. Perhaps because the district includes his hometown of Scranton, President Biden gave Democratic candidate Marty Flynn a rare public endorsement. The Flynn campaign touted the 46th President’s support in a last-minute ad, while the PA GOP dreamed of pulling off a suddenly meaningful surprise win. Yet when all was said and done, Flynn ended up with a healthy thirteen point victory.
Finally, there were two proposed constitutional amendments on the ballot seeking to give the GOP-controlled legislature the power to eliminate the emergency declarations that Gov. Tom Wolf used to implement COVID restrictions.
Essentially, they acted as a partisan plebiscite for this moment in the late stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. Each party got involved and the results were close, but in both cases 52.5% of voters supported loosening the restrictions.
Although the campaign against COVID restrictions succeeded here, the future for this strategy is not exactly bright. Gov. Wolf previously announced that he’ll remove all of PA’s regulations on May 31st, and most other states have already lifted theirs. Given the pace of vaccinations, and the overall decline in COVID cases, this disease may very well be a distant memory by November.