Election 2017 

In advance of last spring’s primary election, PGN sat down with a number of local candidates to explore their views on a variety of LGBT issues. 

On Nov. 7, Philadelphians will return to the polls to cast their votes for district attorney and city controller, as well as a number of judicial seats. Below are highlights from our interviews with D.A. candidates Larry Krasner (D) and Beth Grossman (R), and city controller candidate Rebecca Rhynhart (D). Controller candidate Mike Tomlinson (R) did not respond to PGN’s request for an interview by presstime.

Larry Krasner

Krasner has spent 30 years as an attorney, starting his career as a public defender and later founding his own practice focused on criminal defense and civil rights. He has defended such organizations as ACT UP, Black Lives Matter and others relating to LGBT rights, disabled people and immigrants. 

Krasner told PGN he would support transparency, when appropriate, regarding the records of the homicide investigation of local trans woman Nizah Morris. 

“Assuming that the family of Nizah Morris wanted the information revealed and assuming the law permitted it,” Krasner said, “I would like there to be the maximum amount of transparency and I would like to assist in getting all information out about that incident.”

Krasner wants to eliminate cash bail, and said he would not pursue the death penalty for any cases. He said he takes issues of police brutality “very seriously” and supports more transparency about such cases.

He supports the naming of an LGBT liaison within the D.A.’s Office and said he would use his bully pulpit to advocate for the proposed statewide LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination and hate-crimes bills. 

Krasner said he has been an LGBT ally since launching his career in the 1980s. 

“I have represented groups that were important to the gay community or leaders within the gay community. I put so much time into it even though it was unpaid and unpopular at the time,” he said. “It is easy to talk. It is more difficult to do. I would respectfully suggest to the gay community to look at what I’ve done.”

Beth Grossman

Prior to becoming chief of staff at the Philadelphia Department of Licenses and Inspections, Grossman was an assistant district attorney who prosecuted criminal, civil-rights and corruption cases.

Grossman, a Democrat until 2013, said that, now as a member of the minority party in the city, she is “not bound to our one-party system. I am not bound to our Democratic machine.” She said her election would bring “more political balance in Philadelphia.”

Regarding PGN’s ongoing open-records litigation for access to Morris records, Grossman said she would “be happy to look at everything that has been filed with regard to this open-records litigation and I would be happy and obligated to look at whatever files are available … to take a long, hard look at this.” 

Grossman backs efforts to “conceivably eliminate” cash bail for lower-level crime. She said she only believes the death penalty is appropriate for “extreme cases.” Grossman said instances of police violence need to be “investigated and prosecuted properly,” and that community-based policing can make inroads toward improving community-police relations. 

She told PGN she would “without question” appoint a new LGBT liaison within the D.A.’s Office. Grossman supports the proposed statewide LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination and hate-crimes bills.

“I am a prosecutor at heart who has taken her oath seriously, who is not obligated to any outside source or group to prosecute — including those of public corruption,” Grossman told PGN. “I’m also incredibly focused on how vulnerable the LGBTQ juveniles and youth are, especially the runaways and the issues with human trafficking. It is such a marginalized, vulnerable community so if I were elected D.A., that’s something I would focus on.”

Rebecca Rhynhart

First-time candidate Rhynhart unseated incumbent Controller Alan Butkovitz to win the Democratic nomination. Prior to entering the race, Rhynhart served as Mayor Jim Kenney’s chief administrative officer, and previously was the city’s treasurer and budget director. 

Rhynhart pledged to eliminate $10 million a year in spending by moving the city toward modernization, funding that could be used to support schools, parks, recreation centers and other areas pegged for growth. If elected, she said she would push to release the city’s expenditure data to promote financial transparency. 

“Whenever any information can be released, it should be,” she said. “Openness and transparency are important in all decision-making and in hiring as well.” 

As chief administrative officer, Rhynhart said she worked to establish best practices in hiring, focused on creating a diverse and inclusive workforce. She said she would also strive to ensure city funding adequately supports LGBT programs.

“Budget decisions are about priorities and I would prioritize the LGBT community in any way I could,” Rhynhart said. 

Her status as a political newcomer gives her a fresh perspective, she added. 

“I think I bring an independent, progressive voice to the role of city controller. I will make tough choices and be independent of the political establishment. I really believe in openness and transparency and I’ll bring a fresh, progressive voice to the office. That, coupled with my 15 years of financial experience, make me the best candidate and the best choice for city controller.”