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April 18, 2024

Dave Sunday, Craig Williams square off in Pa.'s Republican primary for attorney general

The York County district attorney and the two-term state representative compete for a chance to be in the general election.

2024 Election Attorney General
Pennsylvania Republicans AG ELEMENT5 DIGITAL/UNSPLASH

York County District Attorney David Sunday and Pennsylvania state Rep. Craig Williams, who serves parts of Delaware and Chester counties, are vying for the Republican nomination for state attorney general.

In Pennsylvania's Republican primary election on Tuesday, two candidates will be on the ballot for attorney general. The winner will advance to the general election in November to face one of the five candidates running in the Democratic primary.

The attorney general plays a crucial role in statewide investigations and oversees legal cases across a wide array of issues including consumer protection, health care and civil rights.

The role of the state's top prosecutor has previously been a springboard for higher political ambitions. Gov. Josh Shapiro (D) and former Gov. Tom Corbett (R) each served two terms as attorney general before becoming governor. Attorney General Michelle Henry took over for Shapiro, who nominated her for approval by the state Senate after he won the gubernatorial election in 2022.

This year's attorney general election carries added significance for Philadelphia, where District Attorney Larry Krasner has been a frequent target of Republican ire. GOP lawmakers launched a failed impeachment bid against Krasner and have sought to use state government as a tool to weaken his power in the city.

A state law signed last year by Shapiro aims to empower a special prosecutor to oversee crimes that involve SEPTA facilities in Philadelphia. Krasner has filed a lawsuit to block its implementation. Henry, who isn't running for election, has not yet appointed a special prosecutor. The attorney general election raises questions about how her eventual successor will approach that issue and the broader relationship with Krasner.

Below are the Republican candidates running for attorney general.

Dave Sunday

Sunday is the district attorney in York County, where he's spent the majority of his career rising to become the top prosecutor. The U.S. Navy veteran has touted his reduction of the county prison population, improved crime numbers and low rates of recidivism as examples of his track record that would help him succeed as attorney general.

Sunday has had notable roles in cases involving gangs, guns and drugs. He was appointed as a special assistant U.S. attorney in 2014 to aid in the prosecution of gang-related crimes. He also led a major drug sting in York County called Operation Sunrise.

“The number one issue facing Pennsylvanians is the fentanyl epidemic,” Sunday said during his campaign. “I will do everything within the constraints of the law to protect Pennsylvanians from fentanyl that’s coming up from the border.”

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Sunday was a vocal opponent of the strict public health mandates that former Gov. Tom Wolf (D) put in place to regulate businesses. He refused to have police cite businesses that violated orders issued by the Wolf administration and the Pennsylvania Department of Health.

On the issue of abortion, Sunday said he believes the state should follow laws established by the legislature and that he would not prosecutor people who travel to Pennsylvania from states with more restrictions on the procedure.

The state Republican Party has endorsed Sunday as its preferred candidate for attorney general.

Craig Williams 

Williams is a two-term state representative serving parts of Delaware and Chester counties in Pennsylvania's 160th District. The Marine Corps veteran was formerly a federal prosecutor in the U.S. Department of Justice.

Williams casts himself as a constitutional conservative with experience investigating criminal networks in gun, drug and human trafficking cases. He was the Republicans' lead House manager in the unsuccessful impeachment trial of Krasner.

After Sunday earned the party nomination, Williams decided to remain in the race despite fellow Republican and former Delaware County District Attorney Katayoun Copeland dropping out of the race.

“I am not the endorsed candidate, and I wear that as a badge of honor, because the Republican Party right now is failing — in every regard,” Williams said during a recent debate with Sunday. “They're not raising money. They're not giving us winning candidates. And the only thing I do in Delaware County is win."

Williams has argued that Sunday is more in line with progressive policies. Sunday does not support continuing the Krasner impeachment probe, which cost the state $2.8 million without ever going to trial. Williams has appealed a Commonwealth Court decision to toss the case, but Sunday argues that Republicans should promote Krasner's defeat in an election.

Williams, who lost a brother to addiction in 2020, agrees with Sunday that more needs to be done to address the flow of drugs in Pennsylvania. He also advocates for better health care and support for people addicted to drugs.

Speaking broadly about the field of seven candidates competing for attorney general — including the five in the Democratic primary — Williams contends he will do the most to reduce crime in Pennsylvania.

"At the end of the day, we're going to be having a debate about violent crime and which of the seven of us is most capable of being hard as nails, tough, combat proven, and ready to take the fight to take our streets back — and that's me," Willians said.