Expectations for the November District Attorney’s race are that Larry Krasner, victorious Democratic nominee, will win. There’s just no way that Beth Grossman, a former assistant DA and the uncontested Republican nominee, can eke out any sort of respectable showing in November. For one: She’s a Republican. But, much more significantly: She’s a Republican in a city like Philadelphia during the Age of President Trump.
It’s bad enough (for her) that she’s decided to actually go out on that mad limb to run—as a Republican—in a city of anxious city residents already feeling besieged by the Trumptocracy and his GOP partners running the legislature in Harrisburg, both running WWE tag team on the city between threats of budget cuts and withdrawn funds over so-called “sanctuary city” status. Much worse (for her) that she’s not straight up about whether or not she voted for Orange Crush last year … which basically means she did. She’s just not saying and that’s just not generally the type of thing to win you any cool points in a city like this one.
Still, it’s kind of interesting that Grossman believes it’s smart to outmaneuver any criticism over her did-you-or-didn’t-you Trump vote. There’s something dog whistle in that. It means that she, and her advisors, are betting on some quiet Philly Trump voters in hiding, mostly white and undoubtedly firm in their belief that “the progressives” (like Mayor Jim Kenney) are ruining the city and not doing anything about the city’s rising homicide rate.
One thing potentially hurting Krasner in November is that Democrats didn’t talk enough about the city’s rising violence. All we know is that Trump won almost 16 percent of the city vote, and managed to outperform Clinton in two out of 66 wards. That might seem small, but in another eight, he actually ranged anywhere from 36 to 49 percent. That was actually a little better than Mitt Romney’s 14 percent in 2012.
And what we also know is that the city’s police union, along with it’s very Trump-friendly Lodge 5 President John McNesby (who, in March, happily sat at the White House clay table with POTUS and Friends), doesn’t very much like Krasner. So, Reality Check started watching an otherwise (and predictably) dull DA general election phase with interest when Philly Inquirer/Daily News political reporter Chris Brennan (a regular on my show) reported something about black Court of Common Pleas Judge Leon Tucker exploring a hostile takeover of Grossman’s GOP nomination perch. Grossman might be like “no way that’s happening”—but, she still admitted that Republican City Committee chair Michael Meehan did speak with Tucker about it.
Not saying Tucker could win as a black Republican DA nominee in a half-black city that’s furious with anti-Trump rage. But: What if he did? Would that make more white voters in the city comfortable voting for a Republican? How many black voters would be intrigued by the idea, hoping for racial redemption in the DA’s office?
Game theory on Reality Check this week—and this is just pure strategist speculation—is that it feels like an FOP play. Just saying. It’s bizarre the conversation is taking place, and in public; and it’s very plausible that there are hidden triangles of relationships forming as certain interests, from the FOP to former assistant DAs who don’t like Krasner all that much, are attempting a very creative political maneuver to make November much more difficult for Democrats.
Not saying Tucker could win as a black Republican DA nominee in a half-black city that’s furious with anti-Trump rage. But: What if he did? Would that make more white voters in the city comfortable voting for a Republican? How many black voters would be intrigued by the idea, hoping for racial redemption in the DA’s office (just keeping it real here)? Another possibility: What if Tucker, feeling the brand newish political wave hitting the city, decides he’ll run as an Independent? How much would that split votes up enough to siphon off support from Krasner?
Some might view this exercise as a fool’s errand. And maybe we’re just looking to stir shit up. But, reality check: Always consider and brace for the impossible, and disastrous, outcomes. Especially in this day and age when few thought emails could sink a candidacy and help usher in a national reign of “alt-right” scum. Even if Tucker isn’t really all that serious about it, the fact this story ends up getting valuable press ink at the very least means certain city political interests are already running public trial balloons to see what sticks—and could work to fatally bruise Krasner in 2017.
The Mayor & City Council Got $50 Million Worth of ‘Splaining To Do
Over the past couple of months, Reality Check has noticed an unusual spike of callers complaining about the city’s stalling over the location for the new Philadelphia Police Department headquarters. There wasn’t yet a segment to further explore it, but there sure were enough callers to keep an eye on the issue. Some listeners seemed genuinely—and understandably–vexed that the city had spent (or, in their minds “wasted”) $50 million on planning and preparation for the 4601 Market Street site. The problem wasn’t so much the money—there’s consensus around the need for a new police HQ and everyone knows that the city will have to put some intense coinage on it.
The problem is that, $50 million later, there’s no building. And bad enough there’s quite a few crucial things in this poverty-hit big city that need fixing.
And then, lo and behold, the Mayor’s office announces this week that we should just, well, bump that 4601 Market spot and get in on the new action at 400 N. Broad Street. It was all very sudden. Explaining that the 400 N. Broad Street location was 100,000 square feet bigger than 4601 Market, the decision had been made that Philly’s finest would move into the old Daily News/Inquirer building. And, more space, said the announcement, gives Philly PD “ … several more units to be located at one common facility, including the 6th and 9th Police Districts, unified Fire/Police communications, the Medical Examiner’s office and its toxicology lab, and miscellaneous police units (Homicide, Human Resources, Command Center) in addition to the Police Administration Building.”
No one’s saying what happened to the $50 million. That’s just vanished.
Two intriguing things about this announcement. First: We peeped how Kenney’s office casually slipped in and reasoned away that the 4601 Market location “… was previously identified by the Nutter administration for the site of new Public Safety Headquarters.” Hence, not only bragging that they found much bigger space, but insinuating the last mayor was somewhat inept for not finding such an obvious location as the former Inquirer/Daily News building in the first place. Like, duh, right?
But, as intriguing—and rather suspect—is that no one’s saying what happened to the $50 million. That’s just vanished. Not so, however, once Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell (D-District 3) jumps into the discussion. The 4601 Market location was in her district, so when she came on Reality Check this week, it was assumed she’d be a bit rankled about it.
Instead, she seemed to defend the move and the missing $50 million. “That $50 million was an investment,” said Blackwell on Reality Check. “It took care of preparing that site for new development, it removed asbestos. At one time, you couldn’t even walk into that location because of all the asbestos. Now, the site’s ready for major projects” and there’s a commitment from Mayor Kenney to see it through.
“Multiple parties have contacted us to express interest in developing 4601 Market Street” was the quote from Anne Fadullon, Director of Planning and Development for the City. “We are confident that the interest in the site will result in a new owner for the building and positive economic development in West Philadelphia.” That spin has a nice “economic development” ring tone to it. Yet, that’s not really a plan for re-couping the $50 million. Why isn’t the city saying anything about that?
Charles D. Ellison is Executive Producer and Host of “Reality Check,” which airs Mon-Thur, 4-7pm ET on WURD Radio (96.1FM/900AM) in Philadelphia. He’s also Principal of B|E Strategy, the Washington Correspondent for The Philadelphia Tribune and Contributing Politics Editor to TheRoot.com. Catch him if you can @ellisonreport on Twitter.Header photo: Beth Grossman for DA