Joe Khan said he will prioritize bail reform and fight consumer fraud and human trafficking. He would also insist on independent reviews of all police shootings.
Forty years ago, Emmett Fitzpatrick was stumbling through his first term as district attorney.
Still, it seemed like he would get a second term.
“No one was willing to challenge the incumbent,” said Joe Khan, a candidate for district attorney this year.
Back in 1977, a young lawyer named Ed Rendell ultimately challenged and defeated Fitzpatrick in the Democratic primary.
Rendell, of course, went on to serve two terms each as district attorney, mayor and governor.
This year, Rendell is supporting Khan. One reason is that Khan became the first challenger to embattled District Attorney Seth Williams, announcing his candidacy way back on Sept. 22 outside the DA’s office.
“I thought that it was important that I stood outside the DA’s office to say, ‘Help is on the way,’ ” Khan said in an interview last week at his campaign office at 1631 Locust St.
Khan, 41, is one of seven Democrats in the field. Beth Grossman is unopposed in the Republican primary. Williams, indicted on federal corruption charges, is not seeking a third term.
Besides backing from Rendell, Khan has been endorsed by the National Organization for Women and Khizr Khan, the Gold Star father who slugged it out with Donald Trump during the presidential campaign. He said he has commitments of support from multiple ward leaders.
A Bustleton native, Khan grew up on Alburger Avenue and on Kings Oak Lane, where his parents still live.
As a kid, he played sports for the Bustleton Bengals and Max Myers Playground and was a member of Bustleton Swim Club. He attended Greenberg Elementary School, Baldi Middle School and Central High School. He played in the Central/Northeast Thanksgiving football game. His favorite eateries were (and are) the Dining Car and Station Pizza.
Khan got his start in politics as an intern on the campaign of former U.S. Rep. Bob Borski, who has contributed to his campaign.
Today, he lives in Roxborough with his wife, Jessica, and their two children.
Professionally, he worked six years as a Philadelphia assistant district attorney and 10 years as an assistant U.S. attorney. His focus was on cases of child abuse, domestic violence, sexual assault, gun trafficking, straw gun purchases, political corruption and fraud against the elderly.
“I happen to have the most experience as a prosecutor, by far, and the best experience,” he said. “I learned a lot about being smarter on crime. I’m uniquely qualified in this field of seven.”
Khan has raised more than $500,000. Individual contributions have ranged from $5 to the $6,000 maximum. About 1,000 people have donated to the campaign.
“No one’s even close to that,” he said.
On the issues, Khan said he was the first to mention bail reform. He wants to eliminate cash bail for non-violent defendants so they don’t lose their jobs, livelihoods and families as they await trial.
His view of public safety includes checks on consumer fraud, human trafficking and some issues that don’t attract much attention, such as employer wage theft and children developing lead paint poisoning in rental properties.
In office, he would insist on independent reviews of all police shootings and alleged corruption cases.
If elected, he would try to deter and prosecute fraud against senior citizens.
“I want the office to be a champion for those folks,” he said.
Khan would use some of the policies he learned at the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
As an example, he cited the Violent Crime Impact Team, which worked with city, state and federal law enforcement agencies to identify young men most likely to kill or be killed in West and Southwest Philadelphia.
Some of those young men involved in the criminal justice system were offered time off sentences if they provided the names of suspected gun traffickers, straw purchasers and murderers. Upon release from jail, they were directed to reentry programs.
“That’s the kind of approach that we need in Philadelphia’s DA office,” Khan said.
Khan promises to hire good people, restore integrity to the office and look into evidence of wrongful convictions. The office would promote fairness and transparency.
“I want the DA’s office to be the law firm for the people,” he said. ••
Tom Waring can be reached at 215–354–3034 or firstname.lastname@example.org