Philadelphia has long been a Democratic stronghold, but Republican candidate for district attorneyBeth Grossman says that could change following the recent indictment of the city's top prosecutor on corruption charges.
Grossman announced her campaign a year ago, long before Democrat Seth Williams, the current Philadelphia district attorney, was charged with multiple counts of bribery and extortion on March 21.
Grossman, 49, is a former assistant prosecutor in Williams' office, where she worked from 1993 until 2015. She left, Grossman said, because of concerns over corruption.
“I didn’t like what I saw going on,” she said in an interview on Thursday.
Aformer Democrat herself, Grossman switched to the Republican Party in 2013, because of her unhappiness with the party and the corruption allegations surrounding it.
But Grossman does have to account for the fact that she switched back to Democrat for a time in 2015. She did that, she said, in order to vote for candidates she respected, then switched back again to the Republican Party.
Grossman is the lone Republican amid a crowded field of Democratic contenders, which includes a defense lawyer, a former municipal court judge and two former federal prosecutors. The Democratic candidate who wins the May primary will face Grossman in the November election.
When it comes to sanctuary cities like Philadelphia, which helpillegal immigrants avoid deportation by limiting cooperation with federal agencies, Grossmantakes a more conservative viewpoint. She is opposed to thembecause shedoesn't believe the city should protect the identity of a “dangerous individual.”
Grossman pointed to the problems Philadelphia has had in recent years with corruption in municipal and traffic courts, along with the scandal surrounding former stateAttorney General Kathleen Kane, a Democrat who was sentenced last year to up to two years in prison for perjury and abuse of power.
The recent 23-count indictment against Williams, who remains in office and who in February announced he wouldn't seek a third term, is enough evidence that it’s time for a change, Grossman said.
“What happened last week [to Williams] blows my mind,” she said. “This office needs to be held to a higher standard of ethics, integrity, transparency and accountability.”
Grossman said that, if elected, she would work to restore accountability to the District Attorney’s Office. In fact, she said, while she worked in the office under Williams, Grossman had seen a drop in employee morale.
“What kind of example has been set? I know how hard they work,” she said. The charges against him, she said, “hurt the office, it hurts the victims of crime and it hurts the city as a whole.”
After leaving the DA's office, Grossman served as chief of staff for the city Department of Licenses and Inspections. She also was in private practice with the Philadelphia firm of Nenner& Namerow.
Grossman said among her priorities, if she were elected district attorney, would be to findnew ways to save the city money,and to use any funding her office controls in meaningful ways.For example, Grossman said would look atfundsgenerated through drug-arrest forfeitures. That money now goes toenforce drug laws. But Grossman said she would consider redirecting it pay for video cameras and more street lighting in areas of the city where open air drug sales and drug use are a problem.
Combating drug abuse and cracking down of prescription opioids would be a major part of her law enforcement efforts, Grossman said.
She supports safe needle injection sites as a way to controland reduceopioid abuse.“Addiction isn’t a crime. We are in the middle of a health crisis,” she said.
Overall, Grossman said she just hopes voters in Philadelphia give a critical look at her policies and consider electing a Republican in the coming election.
“I want the public to be informed and to look at me beyond the label ‘Republican’,” she said. “Take an objective look at me.”