Delaware County's top prosecutor becomes fifth Democrat to run for Pennsylvania attorney general

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Jack Stollsteimer, the top prosecutor in heavily populated Delaware County, will run for Pennsylvania attorney general in 2024, seeking an office that played a critical role in court defending Joe Biden’s 2020 victory in the presidential battleground.

Stollsteimer said he will make an official announcement Tuesday, joining a Democratic primary field that is already four-deep. He is thus far the only elected prosecutor in the Democratic field, although his competition for the nomination features veterans of the campaign trail and the courtroom.

In his campaign for attorney general, Stollsteimer will lean heavily on his experience as the twice-elected district attorney of Delaware County, Pennsylvania's fifth-most populous county, which sits between Philadelphia and Delaware.

“I am uniquely qualified because I do that work every single day in the fifth-largest county in Pennsylvania,” Stollsteimer said in an interview.

Stollsteimer, 60, has been a federal prosecutor in Philadelphia, a top official in the state Treasury Department, the state-appointed safety advocate in Philadelphia’s schools and, before college, a senior aide to state House Democrats. A Philadelphia native, Stollsteimer earned his law degree at Temple University.

The attorney general’s office, the state’s top law enforcement office, has a budget of about $140 million annually and plays a prominent role in arresting drug traffickers, fighting gun trafficking, defending state laws in court and protecting consumers from predatory practices.

The office also defended the integrity of Pennsylvania’s 2020 presidential election against repeated attempts to overturn it in state and federal courts by Donald Trump’s campaign and Republican allies.

Perhaps Stollsteimer’s most-touted achievement is fighting gun violence in the impoverished city of Chester, using a partnership based on a model used successfully elsewhere to connect offenders or known criminals with job training, school or community-building programs.

His office says gun homicides are down by 68% since 2020 and there have been 65% fewer shootings.

As Philadelphia's state-appointed safe schools advocate, Stollsteimer clashed with district officials and the state Department of Education over what he described as an unwillingness to report violent incidents.

“Things have gotten worse, not better,” he told The Philadelphia Inquirer in 2011. “You can’t address the problem until you’re honest about it, and the district is not honest about it.”

Stollsteimer mounted a brief campaign for attorney general in 2015 but dropped out before the primary.

In 2019, he won his race for district attorney, becoming the first Democrat to hold the office in Delaware County, once a Republican bastion that Democrats now control. Stollsteimer won reelection earlier this month by 22 percentage points, drawing support from building trades unions and police unions.

Stollsteimer had a busy four years in office. In perhaps his highest-profile case, his office prosecuted three police officers for responding to a shooting outside a high school football game by opening fire at a car, killing an 8-year-old girl, Fanta Bility, and wounding two others.

Stollsteimer is now the fifth Democrat to announce his candidacy, after state Rep. Jared Solomon of Philadelphia, former state Auditor General Eugene DePasquale, former federal prosecutor Joe Kahn and Keir Bradford-Grey, the former head of Philadelphia’s and Montgomery County's public defense lawyers.

On the Republican side, York County District Attorney Dave Sunday and former federal prosecutor Katayoun Copeland have announced their candidacies.

Candidates must file paperwork by Feb. 13 to appear on the April 23 primary ballot. The current attorney general, Michelle Henry, does not plan to run to keep the office.

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Follow Marc Levy: http://twitter.com/timelywriter

 

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