John Cole, Pennsylvania Capital-Star
January 16, 2024
The five candidates seeking to keep the attorney general’s office in Democratic Party control beyond 2024 are largely on the same page when it comes to issues like abortion, voting rights, public safety, protecting workers’ rights and the environment.
The candidates participated in a virtual forum hosted by the Montgomery County Democratic Committee on Monday evening, the first forum where all five Democrats had a chance to compare themselves with the others in the race, but all seemed in agreement on most of the top-of-mind issues.
“I do appreciate my male opponents for standing up for reproductive rights, but I am reproductive rights,” said former Philadelphia Chief Public Defender Keir Bradford-Grey, the only woman in the Democratic race. “And there’s no one that can fight harder for a woman than a woman.”
Former Auditor General Eugene DePasquale pointed to his investigation into Real Alternatives, saying the work his office did showed them to be “the fraudsters they are,” and lauded Gov. Josh Shapiro for canceling the funding of the anti-abortion centers.
Delaware County District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer said when the Dobbs decision was before the U.S. Supreme Court, he filed a legal brief opposing the decision and referred to a public pledge he made that his office would never prosecute a woman for seeking an abortion.
State Rep. Jared Solomon (D-Philadelphia) noted his 100% voting record with Planned Parenthood. He said he supported banding together with “like- minded states” in the region where they could provide housing and transportation costs in a show of support for people seeking abortions.
All of the candidates said protecting democracy was a critical issue for them in the 2024 election and that they would use the office to protect Pennsylvania’s right to vote.
“These MAGA clowns are going to come after us,” DePasquale said. He added that he would not only use his leadership and organization skills, “but also the backbone that I’ve shown in my lifetime to stand up to these clowns and make sure that our democracy continues.”
DePasquale said the auditor general’s office worked to secure the voter registration system in 2019.
Solomon spoke about his record as a state legislator, where he said he supported expanding voting access by backing open primaries, same-day voter registration, and early voting.
“We must grow the election protection task force within the Attorney General’s office,” Solomon said. “But also what’s key is we need to work using the bully pulpit of the office to expand voting access.”
Khan noted he had received an award from the Pennsylvania Bar Association and was recognized by the County Commissioners Association and described education as “essential” in regard to voting rights.
Bradford-Grey said she would work with county commissioners to ensure people, especially vulnerable communities, are educated on voting rights. She said she supports working with prisons to “see if we can get ballot drop boxes in there because many people sitting in a pretrial hold can still vote.”
Stollsteimer highlighted his office’s work during the 2020 presidential election cycle and pointed to his office charging someone in the county who cast an illegal ballot for former President Donald Trump in the name of the individual’s deceased mother.
All of the candidates agreed that public safety would be a key issue in the race.
“I am not going to let the Republicans lecture us on being soft on crime,” Khan, who also served as a prosecutor for 16 years, said.
Stollsteimer specifically pointed to the reduction of homicides and gun violence in Chester, saying that he brought the community and law enforcement together.
Solomon referenced the work he’s done in his state House district in Northeast Philadelphia, saying it’s a blueprint that can be used in every county.
“For us safety means enforcement, it means investment in communities, and it means protection from special interests,” he said. “When I talk about enforcement, we don’t need less policing, but we need a different type of policing.”
Bradford-Grey said that a “multi-faceted approach” is needed to tackle gun violence and public safety, and vowed to crack down on illegal gun traffickers.
DePasquale said as auditor general, his office investigated gun laws and school safety plans. If elected, he talked about going after illegal gun traffickers.
“It’s not just the person that pulls the trigger, but it’s also the person that puts the weapon in their hand that needs to be held responsible,” DePasquale said.
The candidates all highlighted their plans on climate change as well, saying they would make it a priority if elected to the office.
Current Attorney General Michele Henry was appointed by Gov. Josh Shapiro to finish out his term when he was elected governor. She is not seeking reelection in 2024.
None of the candidates reached the two-thirds voting threshold at the most recent state committee meeting needed to earn the Pennsylvania Democratic Party endorsement.
There are currently three Republicans seeking their party’s nomination for attorney general: York County District Attorney Dave Sunday, former Delaware County District Attorney Kat Copeland, and state Rep. Craig Williams of Delaware County.
The Pennsylvania primary election is April 23.
Pennsylvania Capital-Star is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Pennsylvania Capital-Star maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Kim Lyons for questions: firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Pennsylvania Capital-Star on Facebook and Twitter.