Larry Krasner has never worked as a prosecutor but benefited from a $1.5 million donation from liberal billionaire George Soros to an independent political action committee that ran commercials and sent out canvassers in support of his candidacy.
Krasner is a staunch opponent of the death penalty and mass incarceration. He has said that none of his clients have been sent to death row in 25 years of defending capital cases.
Krasner pulled ahead in a crowded field to win the Democratic nomination Tuesday over several veteran prosecutors and a former city manager. He will face the only Republican candidate, Beth Grossman, in the fall.
The victory followed an intriguing campaign as eight newcomers vied for a job that helps shape city policy on sanctuary cities, police use of force, prison reform and other national issues.
The candidates hoped to succeed two-term incumbent Seth Williams, who goes on trial next month in a federal bribery case. They included a Pakistani-American, a Cuban-American, a black Muslim and Krasner, who also got a nod from singer-songwriter John Legend, a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania.
Several supported prison and bail reform and prisoner re-entry programs, despite efforts under U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions to return to the era of long prison terms for drugs and other crimes.
The other Democrats included Joe Khan, a former city and federal prosecutor; Rich Negrin, a former city prosecutor and city managing director; and Tariq El-Shabazz, who did a stint as Williams' top assistant.
One "juvenile lifer" released this year after serving 41 years in prison for a killing committed when he was 17 was out canvassing on Election Day, urging voters to support justice reform efforts. Michael Twiggs, 59, was taking part in a project run by the American Civil Liberties Union.
"If we get a D.A. in place who will be somewhat compassionate, not so eager to throw lives away, who would be fair," Twiggs said last week, "then I think that ... we'll be getting a better outcome."
In the city controller's race, Rebecca Rhynhart defeated incumbent Alan Butkovitz for the Democratic nomination.
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