PITTSBURGH (KDKA) - It may be one of the most hotly contested races in the state: Allegheny County's battle for district attorney.
As KDKA political editor Jon Delano reports, a major issue is crime in Pittsburgh and who is best able to prosecute it.
In a strong and pointed TV ad, District Attorney Stephen Zappala, a lifelong Democrat now running on the Republican ticket, says Pittsburgh could go the way of San Francisco and Philadelphia if former Chief Public Defender Matt Dugan, the Democratic nominee, is elected DA in November.
Zappala Ad: "The same extremists who created this now want Pittsburgh to become their next social justice experiment."
Zappala is referring to billionaire liberal George Soros, whose political action committee largely funded Dugan's campaign, spending over three-quarters of a million dollars to help Dugan beat Zappala in the Democratic primary.
Soros also backed the DAs in San Francisco and Philadelphia, where opponents say crime has soared.
Zappala Ad: "I've dedicated my career to protecting you and your family. I will never permit your safety to become an experiment."
In his first television ad, Dugan never mentions Zappala or crime in Pittsburgh.
Dugan Ad: "I'll tackle crime and gun violence and expand prevention and treatment programs. I'll protect your family like my own."
Dugan has repeatedly said that he wants to reform the justice system by de-criminalizing low-level offenses so the DA can focus on larger crimes.
"Looking for avenues to divert low-level, non-violent offenders out of the criminal justice system so we can focus our efforts on the prosecution of violent crime," Dugan told KDKA political editor Jon Delano in June.
"But again, we're not going to just talk about arrest, prosecute, and punish. We want to talk about partnering with the next county executive, the mayor, lawmakers, and other entities where we can talk about prevention of crime."
Both county executive candidate Sara Innamorato and Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey have endorsed Dugan, but Zappala says the city is spiking in crime because of the mayor's policies that won't allow city police to do their jobs and "radical political judges" who let fentanyl traffickers go free.
Zappala says with Dugan as DA, this would amount to a "de facto defunding of the police."
Gainey rejects Zappala's characterization, saying his No. 1 priority is making Pittsburgh the safest city in America.
On Tuesday, the mayor said, "This back and forth is political. I'm not gonna be involved in that political rhetoric. The DA knows my number; if there's something he wants to say, he can call me. We've reached out to him. The reality is this. We're not gonna go back and forth. We're not. We're gonna continue to stay focused on what we have to do to improve this city every single day."
To that end, in a statement last Friday, Gainey said, "Right now, homicides are down 20% year over year, and non-fatal shootings are down 14%."
With just six weeks until election day, watch the rhetoric and the ads to get even more heated
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