Dem Senate Candidate Would Worsen Pennsylvania's Crime Spike, Sheriffs Fear

John Fetterman supports drug legalization, shortening prison sentences for murder

Pennsylvania lieutenant governor John Fetterman (D.) / Getty Images
July 28, 2022

A group of 13 Pennsylvania sheriffs urged Senate candidate John Fetterman (D.) on Thursday to clarify his positions on criminal justice reform, saying they "share concerns" about his soft-on-crime record.

Fetterman, the Pennsylvania lieutenant governor, endorsed the release of one-third of all Pennsylvania inmates and expressed support for shortening prison sentences for murderers, the sheriffs said in the letter, organized by Republican candidate Mehmet Oz’s campaign. Oz's campaign released a television ad alongside the letter Thursday hitting Fetterman over his "crazy dangerous ideas."

The sheriffs also pressed Fetterman on his endorsement of Philadelphia district attorney Larry Krasner, whose progressive policies have been blamed for skyrocketing crime in the City of Brotherly Love.

"We believe such measures would add to already rising crime rates in Pennsylvania, particularly in Philadelphia," the sheriffs said of Fetterman’s crime policy positions. They noted Fetterman in September 2020 criticized a judge for setting bail too high for rioters charged with felony arson. They also took issue with his support in 2015 for decriminalization of all drugs, not just marijuana. Fetterman, who presides over Pennsylvania’s Board of Pardons, has voted to release several violent criminals, including murderers, the Washington Free Beacon reported.

Crime is poised to be a major issue in the November elections. An April Gallup poll found 53 percent of Americans worry a "great deal" about crime, the highest rate since 2016. A Pew poll conducted earlier this year found 70 percent of Philadelphia residents see crime, drugs, and public safety as the city’s most pressing issues—an increase of 30 percentage points from 2020.

The nationwide crime surge has started to have political ramifications for Democrats. Voters in liberal San Francisco recalled district attorney Chesa Boudin last month over his progressive criminal justice reform policies. The Democratic party has increasingly distanced itself from congressional Democrats who support the movement to defund police departments.

The sheriffs in their letter called on Fetterman, who has been off the campaign trail since suffering a near-fatal stroke in May, to respond within two weeks to their letter.

"We share concerns about your previous positions pertinent to the law enforcement community and would greatly appreciate your clarification on your past comments," they said.

Fetterman's campaign did not respond to a request for comment.