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Sunday and Williams Duke It Out Over GOP Bona Fides in Pennsylvania Attorney General Debate

2024 GOP Attorney General candidates

by John Cole, Pennsylvania Capital-Star
March 15, 2024

The two candidates running for the Republican Party nomination for Pennsylvania attorney general squared off in the first statewide televised debate on Thursday, agreeing on most issues but sparring over their GOP bona fides.

York County District Attorney Dave Sunday touted his experience as a prosecutor leading a group violence initiative that led to a decrease in gang violence and homicides in the city of York.  State Rep. Craig Williams (R-Delaware) pointed to his experience as a retired Marine Corps Colonel, federal prosecutor, and noted he has won difficult elections for the state House.

Throughout the campaign, Williams has accused Sunday of leading the York County District Attorney’s office like a “progressive Democrat,” arguing that Sunday has allowed York to become one of the most dangerous places in the commonwealth.

“I’m a Republican. I have been my whole life,” Williams said. “My opponent changed his party when he was 37 years old and I can say that I have never voted for (Barack) Obama and Joe Biden.”

“I’m the only candidate that has experience working in the courts where the Attorney General’s Office works,” Sunday said, while noting the endorsements he’s received from the Pennsylvania Republican Party, PA Sheriffs Association PAC, and York County FOP Lodge 73. “I also am the only candidate that has stared juries in the face and asked them to return verdicts holding people liable for murder.”

Williams criticized Sunday on numerous occasions during the debate for his handling of the case of Tyree Bowie, who was found not guilty in connection with the death of 2-year-old Dante Mullinix, December 2022.

Sunday said “anyone who’s a real prosecutor” knows trying child death cases are “some of the most difficult cases.”

Both candidates are in favor of Act 40, which would allow a special prosecutor jurisdiction over crimes committed on Philadelphia’s public transit system (SEPTA). Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner has filed a challenge to the measure, claiming that the law, which passed both chambers of the state legislature and was signed into law by Gov. Josh Shapiro, is unconstitutional.

Sunday and Williams criticized Krasner, but didn’t agree over whether he should be impeached.

Williams served as an impeachment manager in the case against Krasner. He said Philadelphia is “under siege,” and claimed Krasner is not prosecuting crime, which was part of the reason he supported the impeachment effort.

“I understand completely, why the state reps and why all the stakeholders that exist wanted to find a way to remove Larry Krasner as a DA,” Sunday said. “My position is that if he’s removed, we don’t know who will take his place.”

“And what we need to do is work with the citizens in the city of Philadelphia and do everything we can to make sure that we elect a real prosecutor into that role,” Sunday added.

U.S. southern border

Both candidates expressed concerns about security at the U.S. border with Mexico.

“I’m going to tell you right now the number one issue facing Pennsylvanians is the fentanyl epidemic,” Sunday said. “I will do everything within the constraints of the law to protect Pennsylvanians from fentanyl that’s coming up from the border.”

Sunday added that he’s already started collaborating with other Republican attorneys general on the matter.

“We’re going to work on getting federal detainers into our counties so that the federal government can come in and when people are arrested and convicted and being released from jail after their conviction, we can take them for federal prosecution,” Williams said.

Overlap on top priorities

Despite the jabs throughout the debate, there was not too much daylight between the candidates on policy matters.

Moderator Dennis Owens asked the candidates what priority they would focus on first if elected.

Williams said he would set up a gun violence task force that would first target Philadelphia and other cities with “progressive district attorneys” that he says are refusing to prosecute gun crimes.

“I’m running for Attorney General because I believe that our open border and the fentanyl pouring in here is going to kill more Americans and more Pennsylvanians than we’ve ever seen in our lives,” Sunday said.


Both candidates were asked if they thought the Pennsylvania constitution guaranteed a right to abortion.

“Currently as an elected DA and as an attorney general, I will follow the law, whatever that law is, as determined by the legislature,” Sunday said.

Williams said it falls on the General Assembly to decide whether the state’s abortion law will stand adding it was the duty of the district attorneys in the state to enforce it.

“My role as the Attorney General will be to enforce the Constitution and make sure that anything that is done to try to circumvent the Constitution with respect to the Abortion Control Act, that I go and defend the Constitution,” Williams said.

Owens pressed them and asked if “there is a constitutional right to an abortion in Pennsylvania.” Both answered there was not.

Both candidates were also asked if there is any circumstance in which they would prosecute a person who has an abortion or a doctor who performs one.

“I will not be prosecuting any woman who gets a lawful abortion in Pennsylvania,” Williams said. “Any doctor that performs an unlawful abortion in Pennsylvania under the Abortion Control Act should be prosecuted because we do not allow abortions in Pennsylvania beyond 26 weeks or about six months.”

“As prosecutors, we follow the facts and the law period,” Sunday said.

Death penalty, marijuana legalization, and more

Sunday and Williams agreed that they do not support the legalization of marijuana for recreational purposes, a sharp contrast to the Democrats seeking the office who all support legalization.

When asked about the death penalty, both candidates said they are in favor of filing for the death penalty if the crime is fit. Gov. Josh Shapiro recently announced that he was in favor of abolishing the death penalty, which has not been used in the state since 1999. As Pennsylvania’s attorney general, Shapiro said he supported capital punishment for heinous crimes, but has evolved on the issue.

During a rapid fire round of questions, the candidates agreed that they believe the governor does not have the right to put the state into a compact like the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative without legislative approval, said they would sue manufacturers of opioids, and agreed that nursing homes should be open to COVID-19 related lawsuits.

At the conclusion of the debate, Owens gave the candidates 15 seconds to name something they admired about their opponent.

“I admire his ability to run for so many offices at the same time,” Sunday quipped.

“I’m grateful for his military service, even though he couldn’t find something nice to say about me,” Williams responded.

Sunday and Williams are both military veterans.

The race between Sunday and Williams is the only competitive Republican Party primary for statewide office in 2024. Treasurer Stacy Garrity and Auditor General Tim DeFoor are running unopposed for their respective offices.

The Democratic race for attorney general features five candidates: former Philadelphia Chief Public Defender Keir Bradford-Grey, former Auditor General Eugene DePasquale, former Bucks County solicitor and federal prosecutor Joe Khan, state Rep. Jared Solomon (D-Philadelphia), and Delaware County District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer.

While the debate between Sunday and Williams was much more contentious, the Democratic candidates squared off in a debate on Tuesday night where they largely agreed on how to address gun violence, abortion rights, and artificial intelligence and didn’t take any direct shots at each other.

April 8 is the last day to register to vote in Pennsylvania for the primary election. Applications for a mail-in or absentee ballot must be received by your county election board by no later than April 16 at 5 p.m.

The Pennsylvania primary election is April 23.

Pennsylvania Capital-Star is part of States Newsroom, a nonprofit news network supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Pennsylvania Capital-Star maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Kim Lyons for questions: Follow Pennsylvania Capital-Star on Facebook and Twitter.


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