There are two reasons incumbent District Attorney Larry Krasner won’t debate faux Republican challenger Chuck Peruto. (Chuck has been a Democrat his whole life.)
The first is smart: With a 7-1 voter registration edge in deep blue (and high homicide Philly), Krasner has nothing to gain, and possibly something to lose.
And that leads to the second reason. Because he risks losing some votes, he is a coward — arrogant and undemocratic, with a small “d,” about as small as his ball sack.
He has a spineless model to follow — Old Yeller Jim Kenney, who refused to face his Republican opponent, the hapless Billy Ciancaglini, who some say left town for Vegas after being thrashed by Kenney.
Ciancaglini denies leaving town. “Vegas is my Margate,” he says. “I’ve been coming here once a month for 10 years. It’s a great town.” But he lives in Philadelphia.
Running against Kenney was like trying to climb a greased pole wearing a wax paper suit.
He got no help from businesses — some wouldn’t rent to him for fundraisers — unions steered away, and some of his own ward leaders worked against him, he claims.
“When you’re on the same team, you have to block for the quarterback even if you don’t like him,” he says.
But he didn’t help himself enough, either.
When Kenney refused to debate him, and the media was willfully ignoring him, I told him to pick up a bullhorn and stand in Dilworth Park under the mayor’s City Hall windows and bellow a challenge to debate, along with listing Kenney’s failed policies and stupid remarks.
Ciancaglini said he didn’t want to do something that would make him look foolish.
A defense attorney fearing looking foolish? Ciancaglini should have checked his ego at the door. In the general election, he was the invisible man.
So he got crushed — 80% (213,390) to 19.7% (52,537). But, one could argue that since Republicans account for only 13% of the city electorate, with his 20%, Ciancaglini outran his registration by more than 60%.
And now Krasner, who did debate Democratic challenger Carlos Vega in the primary, is taking a page from Kenney’s volume of Profiles in Cowardice by refusing to face his GOP rival.
In 2017, Krasner did debate Republican Beth Grossman, whom he beat by a 3-1 margin. But he won’t debate this time.
Why? I would ask Krasner, but I’d be wasting my time. He doesn’t respond to my emails.
So I will answer for him: The sharp-tongued Peruto might slice and dice him, asking him about our soon-to-be record homicide rate, the illegal drug tsunami, sanctuary cities, failure to prosecute gun crimes, and turning his back on victims of crime.
Debates encourage democracy by forcing candidates to defend their records and their future plans, and to let voters judge how they perform under pressure, which many elected officials must do. Ernest Hemingway defined “courage” as “grace under pressure.”
Ducking debates — which more and more candidates are doing — is more than cowardly. It is graceless. It is small.
I called Peruto Tuesday afternoon to ask how he would smoke Krasner out.
“I like the term ‘smoke him out,’” says Peruto, who just finished filming TV commercials in 15-, 30-, and 60-second cuts.
How many will he air? Depends on how much money he can raise.
Back in July, he told me if he can raise $500,000, he has a shot. As of right now, he’s raised &110,000, with fundraisers planned.
He also has a heavy-duty, megaphone-equipped pickup truck, pulling a 14×28 billboard, running around neighborhoods, concentrating on West Philadelphia, where he grew up.
“It’s important. I can’t win without West Philadelphia,” he says.
As to what else the flamboyant defense attorney might do, his lips are sealed.
Kind of like Krasner, but different.