Larry Krasner and Rebecca Rhynhart take office as Philly’s newest leaders.
On a bitter Tuesday morning, newly elected officials convened at the Kimmel Center, 300 S. Broad St., for the inaugural ceremony for the offices of Philadelphia District Attorney and City Controller, and judges of the Court of Common Pleas and Municipal Court.
A total of four separate oaths of office were administered for eight Municipal Court judges, 13 Common Pleas judges and the newly elected district attorney and city controller.
The Democratic establishment was rocked last spring, as longtime civil rights attorney Larry Krasner, who ran on a progressive platform, bested six other Democrats in the primary, winning by a double-digit margin. That same day, Rebecca Rhynhart defeated three-term incumbent City Controller Alan Butkovitz by a sizable percentage. Both candidates went on to win in landslide victories over their Republican counterparts in the November general election.
Rhynhart spent the previous administration in multiple municipal roles under Mayor Michael Nutter, then served as the chief administrative officer under Mayor Jim Kenney before announcing her candidacy. Rhynhart becomes the first woman to serve as controller since the office formed in 1854.
“A high-performance government such as Philadelphia requires the scrupulous oversight of a high-performance individual and we have one here,” Kenney said about Rhynhart.
In addition to reciting her resume, Kenney added the need for a strong leader in this role, as the School District of Philadelphia “finally returns to local control.”
Rhynhart began her speech by discussing the improbability of this moment.
“When I decided to run for office one year ago, my odds of winning were not good,” she said. “Many people told me I could not beat a longterm incumbent in an off-year election.”
Rhynhart gained support from the laborers union, black clergy, the Philadelphia Inquirer and Gov. Ed Rendell in her quest to unseat Butkovitz.
“I decided to try to change local politics here in Philadelphia because I believe we deserve more than some of the mediocrity and corruption that we see every day. Philadelphians deserve more.”
Rhynhart cited the current political storm in connection with the election of President Donald Trump, but also alluded to the needs of government needing to work better in Philadelphia.
“I felt like we had to fight for government that we believe in, fight for government that works for people. What better place to do that than at home, in Philadelphia?” asked Rhynhart. “It’s a stronghold of the Democratic Party, and yet our government needs to work so much better.”
Rhynhart stated that there are “millions of dollars being wasted by the government” and plans on allocating the money wasted by government toward poverty, job creation and schools. She cited a five-part plan that will be executed by her in office.
She closed her address by acknowledging the historic nature of her election and talked about the need for electing more women to public office. She discussed how the city of Philadelphia has never had a female mayor; the state of Pennsylvania has never had a female governor or U.S. senator, and that Pennsylvania is 40th out of 50 states in female representation in government.
The announcement that drew the most media attention and applause was the swearing in for Krasner.
Kenney detailed Krasner’s background as a civil rights attorney who has defended various protest groups and worked for criminal justice reform, calling him “the right man for this job at the right time in the city of Philadelphia.”
Krasner was sworn in by his wife, Lisa Millet Rau, a Common Pleas Court judge. He began his speech by discussing the changes taking place in Philadelphia and across the nation.
“A movement was sworn in today,” he said. “A movement for criminal justice reform that has swept Philadelphia, as the voters clearly showed, and that is sweeping the United States.”
Krasner is entering an office that was vacated by Seth Williams, who resigned amid a corruption scandal and was replaced on an interim basis by Kelley Hodge.
Krasner entered the race as the reform candidate for the office and detailed what he believes the district attorney’s office should stand for.
“That duty is to seek justice in society,” he claimed. “That requires us to communicate the truth, to represent the public, and to exercise power with restraint with our roots dug deep in equality.”
Although Krasner is entering an office that will deal with the criminal justice system, he spent a great deal of time talking about “trading.”
Krasner laid out four different scenarios of people in Philadelphia.
To the first scenario, he concluded with, “Today, we start the long road toward trading jails and death row for schools.”
To the second scenario, he concluded with, “Today, we start the long road toward trading division between police and the communities they serve for unity and reconciliation and cooperation.”
To the third scenario, he concluded with, “Trading jail cells occupied by people suffering from addiction for treatment and harm reduction.”
The final scenario concluding with, “Trade fear of federal government for sanctuary.”
Krasner’s emotional address ended with once again discussing the movement that he was a part of and asking those to join it.
“We are all this family and we are all this movement. Join us.” ••
John Cole can be reached at JCole@bsmphilly.com