Democrat Eugene DePasquale, Republican Dave Sunday Win Primary Elections For PA Attorney General

The two candidates will face off in November.

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By Katie Meyer | Spotlight PA

Attorney general candidates Eugene DePasquale (Democrat) and Dave Sunday (Republican)

Eugene DePasquale has emerged victorious from a competitive, five-way Democratic primary for Pennsylvania attorney general, while party-endorsed candidate Dave Sunday won the two-man contest for the Republican nomination.

The Associated Press called the race for DePasquale, the state’s former auditor general, at 10 p.m. on Tuesday. Unofficial results show DePasquale with 39% of the vote.

The race for Sunday, York County’s district attorney, was called at 9:25 p.m. on Tuesday. Unofficial results show Sunday with 67% of the vote to state Rep. Craig Williams’ 33%.

The attorney general serves as the commonwealth’s top prosecutor, directs statewide grand juries, defends state laws, and represents Pennsylvania if the state is prosecuted federally. The office is also seen as a prime political stepping stone; two of Pennsylvania’s recent governors — current Democratic Gov. Josh Shapiro and Republican Tom Corbett — served first as attorneys general.

This year’s two primaries for the office were starkly different.

The Democratic attorney general candidates

The five Democratic candidates struggled to differentiate themselves, especially as the state party did not issue an endorsement. Major political organizations that can sway Democratic races — like the state chapter of Planned Parenthood’s political arm, the school workers’ union PSEA, and the powerful government workers union AFSCME Council 13 — also abstained from endorsing.

In debates, the candidates broadly agreed on key issues like gun control and protecting abortion access.

DePasquale played up his two terms leading the auditor general’s office and won an endorsement from the Philadelphia Inquirer, which commended his “independence and fairness.” DePasquale, who is based in Central Pennsylvania and was a state representative, has little prosecutorial experience but can point to a history of audits that had impact — like a long-term effort to cut down on a backlog of untested rape kits.

Keir Bradford-Grey, a former public defender who was head of the Defender Association of Philadelphia, garnered support from longtime Philadelphia politicians like Sens. Vincent Hughes and Anthony Wiliams, along with progressive organizations like the Working Families Party. Of the entire slate, she was the only candidate with a public defense background; she has called for alternatives to cash bail and led an effort to create one such alternative, Philadelphia’s Pre-Entry Initiative, which connects arrested people with support services in place of posting bail or serving jail time.

Former Bucks County Solicitor Joe Khan was backed by Harrisburg legislators, issue-based groups like Clean Air Action, and a grab bag of Philly ward organizations. He has prosecutorial experience, having served as both an assistant district attorney in Philadelphia and a federal prosecutor. He previously ran for Philly district attorney, losing to Larry Krasner in the 2017 primary.

Northeast Philadelphia state Rep. Jared Solomon consistently had among the strongest campaign finance reports in the race. His supporters included fellow legislators, including Majority Leader Matt Bradford, and several unions. He recently sponsored bills that would put limits on Pennsylvania’s notoriously lax campaign finance rules, and was an early supporter of ousting indicted former Philadelphia Council Member Bobby Henon.

Delaware County District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer also had notably strong campaign finance returns. He won early support from building trades unions, including the Pennsylvania Building & Construction Trades Council and the Philadelphia Building Trades, which noted his record prosecuting wage theft. Stollsteimer was the first Democrat elected as Delaware County district attorney. He said he considers the “crown jewel” of his time in office to be a safe neighborhoods program in the embattled city of Chester — in 2023 his office said there had been a 68% reduction in gun homicides since the program’s 2020 launch.

The Republican attorney general candidates

Republicans saw their party establishment line up behind Sunday, who won the GOP endorsement and received financial support from a who’s who of top leaders and political power brokers.

State Rep. Craig Williams (R., Delaware), meanwhile, counted state House Minority Leader Bryan Cutler among his key supporters and received many of his biggest financial contributions from wealthy southeastern Pennsylvanians.

Both Republicans focused on public safety during their campaigns, with Sunday specifically saying he wants to crack down on illegal use of firearms.

Sunday, a U.S. Navy veteran, also touted his experience as a courtroom prosecutor and defended his record fighting crime. While York faces heightened crime, Sunday argued, because of its proximity to Baltimore, he has overseen an overall reduction in crime rates and has also successfully shrunk the country’s prison population.

The city of York experienced a 36% drop in gun crime from 2022 to 2023, according to the York Daily Record.

Williams focused on his work in the legislature to give the state power over Philadelphia’s progressive district attorney, Larry Krasner, and defended his leadership role in a Republican effort to impeach Krasner (Sunday, in a debate, said he didn’t support that initiative). Williams also stressed his experience in the Marine Corps and sought to cast Sunday as insufficiently conservative, noting that he was once registered as a Democrat.

Both Republicans do not believe the state constitution protects the right to abortion access.

Up next: the November general election

The two primary winners now enter a general election season that will see both major parties pull out all the stops to see them elected. DePasquale begins the next phase of the race with nearly $100,000 on hand as of April 8, while Sunday had $273,000.

The race could also feature a third-party candidate, should he successfully collect enough signatures to get on the ballot and fend off likely legal challenges from the major parties. Health care industry lawyer Eric Settle, a former Republican from Montgomery County, is running as a member of the fledgling Forward Party.

The Pennsylvania attorney general’s office has been under Democratic control almost continuously since 2013, except for a blip in August 2016; Republican Bruce Castor became acting attorney general after the conviction of former Democratic Attorney General Kathleen Kane for perjury and abuse of office.

The general election will be held on Nov. 5.

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