New York Daily News | By Molly Crane-Newman |
Soon after the presidential inauguration is over, a crowded field of candidates vying for Cy Vance’s job will have New Yorkers focusing on the 2021 race for Manhattan District Attorney.
The three-term incumbent still hasn’t said whether he’ll run for a fourth term, a Vance campaign spokeswoman told the Daily News. In July, Vance cited the coronavirus epidemic and national unrest following the police-involved killing of George Floyd among his reasons for waiting to announce whether he’ll run again. His predecessor Robert Morgenthau, who endorsed his candidacy, was in office for 34 years.
But with just over $2,000 in contributions through the first half of 2020, Vance has been vastly outpaced by his nine potential rivals, state Board of Elections records show.
The competition includes two of Vance’s former staffers, a Manhattan state assemblyman and a public defender who appeared on the reality TV show “Survivor.”
Nearly all of the candidates are running on progressive platforms that promise to transform the Manhattan DA’s office and lower incarceration rates. Here’s a look at each of them ahead of the June 2021 election.
A former chief deputy state attorney general and federal prosecutor, Alvin Bragg was the first to announce his candidacy for Manhattan DA in June 2019.
Bragg has refused to take money from corporations, lobbyists, or people with business before the office — yet he’s raised the most so far. His campaign reported $353,431 in contributions during the last filing period, BOE records show.[More New York] NYC man will spend 21 years in prison for fatally beating and burning former girlfriend »
If elected, the progressive reformer says he’d take an aggressive approach towards ending mass incarceration and overhaul the DA’s scandal-plagued sex-crimes unit, among other proposals.
“I’m someone who spent my life and my career focusing both on criminal justice reform and on public safety. I grew up in Harlem in the eighties during the height of the crack cocaine epidemic, and unlike any other candidate, experienced both police accountability issues and public safety,” Bragg told The News.
“We need someone who has experienced it personally and then worked on it for 20-plus years.”[More New York] High-ranking FBI agents accused of groping female subordinates at happy hour, sexual torture and blackmail: report »
Assemblyman Dan Quart, who represents parts of Manhattan’s East Side, says he’s running to deconstruct and rebuild the Manhattan District Attorney’s office from the ground up. If he wins, it’d mean stepping down midterm from his seat in the state legislature.
During the last filing period, his district attorney campaign took in $89,765, BOE records show. After transfers from Assembly accounts, Quart’s campaign has the most money to spend with a closing balance of $903,030.
A longtime critic of Vance, Quart, too, says he’ll overhaul the office’s sex crimes unit if elected and will decline to prosecute a host of low-level offenses that primarily affect Black, Latino and low-income New Yorkers.
“I have a record of actually getting things done. In nine years as a legislator, 21 years as a practicing attorney, multiple years doing criminal defense work,” Quart said.
“I don’t shy away from doing the right thing because it’s not easy or unpopular.”
Hired at the Manhattan DA’s office 12 years ago by Robert Morgenthau, Lang worked as a senior homicide and domestic violence prosecutor under DA Cy Vance before being selected as special counsel on policy and projects in his office.
Lang created a first-of-its-kind course for incarcerated college students that brought prosecutors to study criminal justice side-by-side with inmates in New York State prisons. She supports increased use of restorative justice practices, building out supervised release programs in Manhattan, and fast-tracking gun cases in the borough.[More New York] NYC drivers file class-action suit against against illegal parking double-ticketing, biased hearings »
A native New Yorker, Lang launched her campaign after the most recent filing date and has not yet filed a campaign disclosure report.
“As a former assistant district attorney, I know that the office encompasses a lot more than prosecution alone,” Lang told The News. “It requires engagement with communities, prioritizing prevention, and facilitation rehabilitation, and that can only come by deep engagement with the people who are most impacted by the system.”
The only public defender in the race, former Legal Aid attorney Eliza Orlins is a familiar face to many. She’s popular on Twitter and was a contestant on the reality TV shows “Survivor” and CBS’ “The Amazing Race.”
After more than 10 years of going up against Vance’s office in court, Orlins says she’s ready to take his job. If elected, she vows to lower the city’s jail and prison population and discontinue the prosecution of low-level offenses resulting from addiction, homelessness, mental illness and poverty.
Orlins’ campaign netted significant contributions in the last filing period: $331,499, filings with the state BOE show.
“I have spent my entire career as a public defender here in Manhattan. I have been representing human beings charged with crimes who couldn’t afford to hire an attorney, and I’ve represented more than 3,000 people,” Orlins told The News.
“I came to realize that our criminal justice system isn’t broken. It’s rigged. It’s working exactly as designed, and it’s continued to marginalize people like my clients.”
Veteran prosecutor Diana Florence worked at the Manhattan District Attorney’s office for 25 years before resigning as head of Vance’s Construction Fraud Task Force in January.
Florence quit amid accusations she withheld evidence that may have undermined a prosecution witness in several bribery and corruption cases.
During her time at the DA’s office, Florence won several landmark convictions against companies and individuals for defrauding 9/11 charities, wage theft, and deadly work conditions.
Florence, who has has not yet filed a campaign disclosure report, has garnered impressive support in the construction industry sector she used to oversee. Twelve labor union heads have given her their endorsements — including Gary LaBarbera, head of the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York and president of the Teamsters, George Miranda.
Florence told The News that the city’s essential workers are her No. 1 priority.
“We need to be using the criminal law to serve everyday New Yorkers. That means people at their jobs. Whether it’s a nurse that doesn’t get PPE and the hospital lies about it, or a construction worker who’s put in unsafe conditions,” she said. “This is the DA’s job.”
As the only person to have seen and survived the prosecution system up close and personal, civil rights attorney Tahanie Aboushi says she’s uniquely fitted for the DA job.
Both of Aboushi’s parents, who are Palestinian immigrants, were arrested on charges related to untaxed cigarettes when she was a child. Her father was sentenced to more than two decades in prison when she was only 14.[More New York] Family reveals Midtown stabbing victim was younger brother of late pro-wrestler Ashley Massaro: ‘They were very close’ »
Aboushi says she will lower incarceration through the decriminalization of poverty, mental illness, and substance use disorder if elected.
“I am somebody that has walked in the shoes of those impacted by this office. For over a decade in this city, I have been fighting as a civil rights attorney against discrimination, police violence, and representing children sexually assaulted in schools,” Aboushi told The News.
Aboushi raised an impressive $329,647 in contributions during the last filing period, records show.[More New York] Chief judge in Manhattan and court officer lieutenant test positive for COVID-19 »
Tali Farhadian Weinstein
A seasoned prosecutor who’s worked for the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office and as a clerk to Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, Tali Farhadian Weinstein announced her candidacy in July.
Weinstein spearheaded a historic report published by the Brooklyn DA’s office in June that profiled the wrongful convictions of 25 people who served a combined 426 years in prison for crimes they didn’t commit.[More New York] Man killed in random Midtown attack was fighting for a better life; checked out of rehab and ‘not even 12 hours later, he was gone’ »
Weinstein, who has not yet filed a campaign finance disclosure, immigrated to the U.S. from Iran as a child after the Iranian Revolution.
“I eventually was able, after being represented pro-bono by immigration lawyers for 10 years, to get amnesty and ultimately went on to become a citizen when I was in college,” she told The News.
If elected, she’ll work with other authorities to create a “Gun Court” dedicated just to firearms prosecutions, stating, “ideally, cases will be closed within six months.” She also plans to beef up enforcement of domestic violence cases, overturn wrongful convictions and make incarceration a last resort.[More New York] Man killed in random Midtown attack was fighting for a better life; checked out of rehab and ‘not even 12 hours later, he was gone’ »
A civil rights attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, Janos Marton says he’s the most progressive candidate in the Manhattan DA race.
Marton served as special counsel to the short-lived Moreland Commission to Investigate Public Corruption and publicly challenged Gov. Cuomo when he prematurely pulled the plug on the probe.
Marton led the #CloseRIKERS campaign whose success, in part, led to Mayor de Blasio announcing the jail complex would be closed by the year 2026.
If elected, Marton told The News he’d reduce Manhattan’s pretrial prison population by 80%, end the use of solitary confinement for all New Yorkers incarcerated in Manhattan, and revisit long sentences from the past to reunite families.
Marton garnered $56,470 in campaign contributions between mid-January and mid-June, state BOE records show.
A former prosecutor in the Investigation Division under longtime Manhattan DA Robert Morgenthau, Liz Crotty is the only self-described centrist in the race. After leaving the office, she started her defense practice 12 years ago and has been fighting for New Yorkers in court since.
If elected, Crotty says her office will institute programs that promote restorative justice and further assist New Yorkers in reentering society from incarceration to find jobs and receive counseling and support.
“It’s not a resume job, it’s an experience job, and it’s connecting with the voters. I have a very specific message, and I’m very comfortable with that message.”
Crotty, who has not yet filed a campaign finance disclosure, has not said she will decline to prosecute low-level offenders like most of her contemporaries but will deal with such cases fairly and in a just manner. She says nobody should be expected to pay a court fee if they can’t afford it.