National civil rights organizations are teaming with local groups to push their agendas in district attorney races, where a few thousand votes can determine who asserts the most influence over the local justice system, NBC News reports. Picking targets carefully, crunching election data to influence pivotal voter blocs, and benefiting from the largesse of George Soros, crusaders have racked up big wins, most recently in Philadelphia, where civil rights lawyer Larry Krasner was elected chief prosecutor last year. Using Krasner as proof that their strategy can work, the American Civil Liberties Union, Color of Change and like-minded political action committees are now focusing on 2018 races, with Dallas at the front of a list that could also include Baltimore, Charlotte, Los Angeles, Oakland, San Diego and St. Louis, as well as parts of Massachusetts, Oklahoma and Oregon.
Each will involve targeted voter-education drives and the hiring of formerly incarcerated prisoners to canvass neighborhoods, asking voters to demand that candidates pledge to curb mass incarceration. “We want to send a clear message that these are the real issues and the litmus test in the election, and to demonstrate the public demand for it,” said Scott Roberts of Color of Change, which organizes online campaigns focused on ending injustices against African Americans. Stanford law Prof. David Sklansky, who studies prosecutors, says that, “In a growing number of races, people have defeated incumbents by running on platforms that are very policy heavy. They’re not calling for more punishment, but more sensible policies,” from police oversight to criminal sentencing. The trend began in 2013, when Ken Thompson defeated longtime Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes. Since then, self-described reform candidates have won in Chicago, Denver, Houston, and Orlando, and in smaller jurisdictions in Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico and Texas.