by Christian Morrow, Courier Staff Writer
There were more votes cast in the Democratic Primary race for Allegheny County District Attorney than in any other countywide race—110,063. Unfortunately for Turahn Jenkins, he only received 40 percent of them. Incumbent Stephen A. Zappala prevailed with 59 percent.
Still a fairly impressive showing for a first-time candidate, with very little money and a shoestring campaign staff. Nor was it a total loss, as Zappala said he would implement policy changes in the office based on concerns Jenkins had raised during his campaign.
“These are things I’ve been speaking about for years, so I’m glad to see there’s more awareness,” Jenkins told the New Pittsburgh Courier, June 3. “I was and am hopeful that the campaign would bring about change. So, yeah, I would say that’s a win because people now know to look to that office for answers.”
Jenkins said he learned a lot throughout the course of the campaign. He said he quickly learned his two biggest hurdles were a lack of name recognition and a lack of resources, but it went beyond that.
“I met a lot of great people,” he said. “And I learned some things talking to victims of crime and witnesses that I really wasn’t aware of. A lot of victims feel their voices are not heard by the system. A lot of witnesses don’t want to engage with law enforcement because of previous tainted experiences—they don’t have faith in the system.”
Jenkins said if he were to do it over, he’d start earlier, figure a way to raise more funds, and be more strategic in how he worked his way around the county. But the hardest part of the campaign was the time it demanded.
“Being away from my family was the toughest. This county is enormous, and there are no days off on the campaign. There were lots of days when I’d put the kids on the bus to school in the morning, and by the time I got home, they’d already be in bed. My wife was a soldier through the whole thing,” he said.
“But it made me stronger, and I’m encouraged that more than 40,000 people thought I could be a difference-maker and change agent. I want to thank them.”
That was the best part, he said; knowing that his message didn’t fall on deaf ears and that people believe change is not only possible, but necessary.
Currently, Jenkins is maintaining the private practice that sustained him throughout the campaign, but he has received some offers as a result of the campaign.
“I’ve gotten a few calls about opportunities both here in the county and out of state and I’m considering them,” he said. “Ultimately. I’ll do what’s best for my family.”
Overall, Jenkins said the campaign experience was a good one.
“It was an adventure and I wouldn’t trade it for anything,” he said. “It gave me a new sense of purpose. It made me stronger, wiser and encouraged me to step up when no one else will. I’m going to keep doing that. I can’t turn it off now. As long as there’s a need for equal justice, I’ll speak out.”
He said he has also received some encouragement to run as a write-in candidate in the November general election, but he isn’t going to commit to that.
“Right now, I’m weighing my options. My family sacrificed a lot,” he said. “On the bright side, school’s out soon. So, I think there may be some trips to Kennywood in the near future.”
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