Who will succeed Lynne Abraham?

April 22, 2009 4:57:15 PM PDT
As the weather turns warm, so does the political primary season, and this year, one of the races is the democratic contest for Philadelphia District Attorney.Veteran D.A. Lynne Abraham is one of Philadelphia's best known public officials. She has been a fixture for 19 years as the city's top law enforcement official, but she has chosen not to run for reelection and there's a large field out here running to succeed her.

Perhaps the highest profile contender is former assistant D.A. Seth Williams who mounted a serious challenge to Abraham 4 years ago; this time is backed by the Fraternal Order of Police, the black policemen's organization, and the Black Ministers. He says a new course is badly needed.

"Philadelphia leads the nation in the rate of homicides caused by handguns, the number one cause of death of black men under 35 is homicide, and 59-percent of the felony cases in Philadelphia get thrown out because the D.A.'s office isn't ready. Our system's broken; I want to fundamentally change it," Williams said.

Dan McCaffery, also a former assistant D.A., is now in a lucrative private practice. He's considered the darling of organized labor. He is saying more drug treatment for nonviolent offenders and tougher sentences for the violent. He says Philadelphia's judges are too lenient.

"I practice in some of the other counties. I practice in Delaware County, Montgomery County, Chester, Bucks, and I can tell you unequivocally, some of the sentences being meated out to some violent criminals in the city of Philadelphia are absolutely laughable," McCaffery said.

Former city councilman Daniel McElhatton is also a former asst. D.A. He promises to personally lobby in Harrisburg for tougher gun laws in Philadelphia, to harness outrage about ongoing street violence, and to use his skills and connections as an insider to fight crime.

"Because of the current budget crisis, there's no one in the field that has the kinds of relationships with the decision makers that I have. Michael Nutter and I worked together when we both came into council," McElhatton said.

There are 3 more D.A. hopefuls in this race to replace the legendary Lynne Abraham. One of them is a Republican.

They will be profiled tomorrow.

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