2024 Primary

Q&A with attorney general candidate Jared Solomon

The Philadelphia legislator is hoping to make the jump from the state House to the commonwealth’s top legal office

Photo courtesy of Friends of Jared Solomon

The commonwealth's recent history has shown the growing importance of row office positions such as attorney general, with the likes of Tom Corbett and Josh Shapiro going on to hold the governor’s office shortly after. 

This year’s attorney general race has focused on a variety of local and national issues stemming from voting and reproductive rights to gun and drug trafficking and policing in many neighborhoods. 

Ahead of the primary election in April, City & State has spoken to each attorney general candidate to get a sense of their priorities and how they would approach the role of the state’s top legal officer. In our first candidate Q&A, we spoke with state Rep. and Philadelphia Democrat Jared Solomon. 

The following conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

Looking back to when you first decided to run for attorney general, was there a specific event or moment that made you think, “Now is my time”?

With (former President Donald) Trump as the likely Republican nominee in the presidential race, what we’re going to see is Trump coming into Pennsylvania and bringing all of his special interests. And when I thought about the race, I thought about what qualities were needed. I think that in order to push back against those who are threatening abortion access, who are going to be allowing guns to proliferate amongst our communities and threatening the sacred right to vote, I knew we needed someone who has the courage to take on those fights and the courage to win each and every time. That has been who I am. 

I have stood up and fought, whether it be for my community in Northeast Philadelphia, fighting against and holding accountable large corporations as a securities antitrust lawyer or taking on a special interest in Harrisburg … I've taken on the biggest fights, I've won reelection each and every time and, of course, my proudest fight is fighting for my country in both the Army Reserves, as a trial defense counsel and as an officer in the National Guard. We're going to need someone that has the skill set, the work ethic and the height to make sure that we push back against special interests at every turn and protect our communities.

Speaking of your time as a JAG officer and your experience in the legislature, can you elaborate on how those roles have influenced you and your approach to politics?

I want to be the people's protector. I’m going to be very hands-on, very community-based and community-focused because that’s the work that I am passionate about and that’s the work I’ve done back in Northeast Philadelphia. I've taken a very expansive view of what safety means in my community. It means investment in neighborhoods, it means enforcement, of course, and protection from special interests. I’ve demonstrated enforcement by adding $2.5 million per year to the gun violence task force partnership between the attorney general and local DAs to get illegal guns off our streets. I’ve demonstrated the investment time and time again – for example, there is a Penn study that shows we can reduce crime up to 22% with modest investments in our communities hard hit by gun violence. I've done that through bringing back business corridors, picking up trash, increasing lighting, revitalizing rec centers and bringing police and youth together in partnership to reduce crime and increase opportunity. 

I push back against those special interests. For instance, those landlords and big corporate entities out of state that don't care about properties here, I've taken them on … In terms of what you mentioned in Harrisburg, I've led the way on campaign finance to get dark money out of politics. I’ve led on bills like the gift ban legislation, bringing an independent, citizen-like commission to redistricting reform, recall elections, making our primary system more open for independent voters to increase our democracy, making sure that we hold elected officials accountable so that if you commit a crime, you are forced to resign. As a package, these bills are taking on the most vested interests in Harrisburg – the untouchables – and I've done that throughout my whole time in the legislature.

National issues such as reproductive rights have made their way into races like the one for attorney general. Can you speak on the importance of this year’s election for attorney general compared to previous cycles?

If you look at the eight years of the Reagan administration, eight to 12 suits were brought by attorneys general against the executive. Flash forward to Trump's presidency, in the four years of the Trump presidency, you have well over 100 actions by attorneys general against the executive. This makes sense because Trump does not believe that anything is sacred – the press, the judiciary branch, his own branch, the executive, Congress – everything is a mere tool of the political game and a way to exercise his own will. So, when these threats to democracy continue to unfold, it does call for concerted action. 

If you look at, for instance, our former attorney general – our current governor – and the Attorneys General of Michigan and Wisconsin, there was an inflection point in that 2020 election where those attorneys general and others needed to dispel and stand strong against frontal attacks to the right to vote. We’re going to need to do that again. It's going to go far beyond the right to vote. It's going to go to abortion access and LGBTQ+ rights. I strongly believe that there is no moment for consideration of political favor or political expediency and I have an established track record of doing what's right and doing what's in the best interest of Pennsylvanians, even if I take a hit. I think that's what this moment calls for.

Do you think an AG should take more of an initiative to address specific issues such as gun and drug trafficking in cities like Philadelphia?

Certainly, safety and security are the top priorities. I would work with local DAs and local law enforcement to make sure that we got that right. There are a lot of ways to do that – I mentioned the task force, which is a partnership with the attorney general and local DAs to have more lines to prosecute gun-related crimes and add more investigators to the Attorney General's Office to investigate those crimes. I want to bring that to all 67 counties. I also want to bring a dose of prevention, where I want to add nonprofits, educators, civic leaders and faith-based leaders all to the table in our community-based approach, all pointed towards collaborating and coordinating, breaking through agency silos and forcing results when it comes to reducing gun violence. 

What we also need is what Josh Shapiro did – using the Commission on Crime and Delinquency to invest in communities using that Penn study as a model. If we had a blighted parcel and turned it into a community park, which I did in my Northeast Philadelphia neighborhood, crime in the immediate area would go down by 37%. We need to give people both a sense of community pride and key strategic investments to do that work. 

It's the investment side and it's the enforcement side, but it’s also doing a holistic look at making sure we put out a call for a new type of police department. I would have a once-in-a-generation public service campaign to make sure that we get the best and the brightest in our local police forces, many of which are struggling, by reframing and reworking the mission to make it reflective of what the new generation of young people want it to do.

You’re one of the few Democrats who voted against Act 40 when it was on the state House floor. Can you elaborate on that vote and your thoughts on legislative efforts to circumvent Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner’s authority within the city?

I've been outspoken in calling for more accountability for Krasner because he needs to do better with the efficient, effective prosecution of gun-related crimes. I've said this for quite some time … and I've made my stance clear as one of the impeachment managers, the lone Democrat on the impeachment team. We have a proceeding that is not following the rule of law … You have a bunch of Trump-style Republicans who are trying to suppress the right to vote for the people in Philadelphia. They don't like the policy decisions of a local DA, so they want to get rid of him. 

If you can do it in Philadelphia, you will be able to do it in Elk County, Washington County, Lackawanna County and everywhere in between. We need to stand for the law and the right for people to exercise their right to vote, even if we do not believe in the outcome. In many ways, Act 40 is an extension of that type of approach, which is not collaborative – where Republicans or Democrats are working together to reduce gun crime – but rather a way to score a political point. A bunch of Trump Republicans are getting together and trying to register a political victory, but in the end not really doing anything to solve the safety concerns of us in Philadelphia. I joined colleagues proudly to pass a slew of legislation dealing with the assault weapons ban, reducing high capacity clips, lost and stolen firearms, and red flag laws, all of which would help to bring common sense gun reform to Pennsylvania.

Lastly, what other important issues or concerns are voters bringing up to you on the campaign trail?

Many communities are dealing with the opioid crisis. In fact, that's one of the sort of common themes that I hear everywhere I go. Rural, suburban and urban communities are feeling this because we're losing folks in all generations to the heroin epidemic. I think we need to be doing better. Using my experience as a class action securities and antitrust lawyer, I would take on pharmaceutical companies, making sure we held them to account, making sure that settlements drove dollars back into our communities for the prevention, treatment and smart programmatic decisions that we need in our neighborhoods across the commonwealth.