Richard Aborn Gaining Steam in NY DA's Race

A few weeks ago, I published my interview with Richard Aborn, one of the three Democratic candidates to succeed outgoing Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morganthau. No Republicans are running, so whoever wins the September 15 primary will win the job.

I praised Aborn's mostly progressive agenda and his unique perspective on using the DA's office to do more than get convictions and lock people up.

The New York Times today profiles Aborn and says he's gaining steam: [More...]

His two opponents in the Sept. 15 Democratic primary were better known: Leslie Crocker Snyder, a former judge who challenged the longtime district attorney, Robert M. Morgenthau, in 2005; and Cyrus R. Vance Jr., son of President Jimmy Carter’s secretary of state and Mr. Morgenthau’s pick to succeed him.

But Mr. Aborn devoted the subsequent months to shaking hands, stumping at candidate forums and press conferences, and distributing campaign literature, and now his refrains seem to be resonating.

I think it's his message:

[H]is platform also focuses on remedying a broad range of social justice issues that are not typical district attorney concerns, including the high rate of incarceration among blacks and juvenile recidivism rates. He has stressed the need to seek treatment, rather than prison terms, for nonviolent criminals, drug addicts and young defendants. He was also in favor of providing treatment for crime victims. He has said he would reach out to minority and immigrant groups by working closely with already established community organizations.

As to how he'll do that, see my interview for the specifics, but in general, as the Times reports:

“I think we will have a driving philosophy in the office which asks, ‘Are there ways we can stop crime from happening?’ ” Mr. Aborn said over an omelet and toast at a Harlem diner. “Strictly fighting crime one case at a time is not the only way.”

Mr. Aborn’s opponents have criticized his agenda as more suitable for a legislator than a district attorney. But Mr. Aborn said his philosophy would help the district attorney’s office run more efficiently and effectively.

We've seen that the tough on crime policies of the 80's and 90's have failed and our over-reliance on incarceration is fiscally draining to states. I think Aborn's attitude is refreshing. And it doesn't seem to be one he's only recently acquired for the election:

Joseph J. Ortego, who worked with Mr. Aborn in the [DA's]office, said that Mr. Aborn was often helpful, offering advice about cases while the two lunched on 25-cent pork rolls from street vendors and chocolate egg creams.

“He was interested in the causes,” Mr. Ortego, now a defense lawyer, said. “Why people were defendants; why did things happen like this; what were the sociological reasons.”

Aborn has been endorsed by many public officials in New York, and by both the Association of Legal Aid Attorneys and The Nation magazine.

The only negative to Aborn in my view is his strong fervor for gun control, which I don't support. But that pales by comparison to all the progressive views he has on wrongful convictions, juvenile justice, drug crimes, the need for rehabilitation and treatment as alternatives to prison except in cases involving violence, intolerance for the disparities in the justice system, whether targeted at racial minorities, immigrants or the LGBT community, and so many other important issues.

You can read more at his website, Richard Aborn for DA.

Aborn is still the underdog but he has a real shot. I hope New Yorkers take him up on his offer. If ever there was a year to get a progressive with an alternative vision into a high-level crime-fighting job this is it. I doubt they'll get the chance again for a very long time.

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    still supporting Leslie Crocker Snyder (none / 0) (#1)
    by nycvoter on Wed Aug 26, 2009 at 12:28:09 PM EST
    Jeralyn.  I took what you said seriously about rape shield laws not being great for defense attorneys.  I asked Judge Snyder what she thought about that and she said that when the evidence is relevant it could and should be let in, but not when it's completely irrelevant.  You also seemed to think that she was someone who came late to the progressvie stances she takes, but I see no evidence of that.  She has served for many years as a board member to alternative to prison programs and was for the repeal of the Rockefeller drug laws for years.  Yes, as a judge she may not have been the favorite of every defense attorney but she presided over some of the toughest gang, mob and drug cases.  She's quite qualified for the position and we'd be splitting hairs in terms of progressiveness when among the dem candidates, NY Times endorsed her before they didn't and frankly if we want more women to run for office, we need to support them IF they are qualified.  
     I care about this race, so I wanted to put in an opposing view. New Yorkers should go to her website and contact the campaign for an opportunity to meet her in person (their events page is lacking but there are free meet and greets from now until electionday)

    thank you for (none / 0) (#4)
    by Jeralyn on Wed Aug 26, 2009 at 01:23:11 PM EST
    sharing your views. You have been a vocal and articulate advocate for her.

    As for your comment:

    frankly if we want more women to run for office, we need to support them IF they are qualified.  

    Qualifications are not the only criteria. A qualified candidate can hold views we oppose, in which case, we shouldn't vote for them.

    I don't vote based on gender. I vote for the person I think will do the best job in office. The District Attorneys' job is one that will affect hundreds of thousands of defendants in one term alone - the office prosecutes 100,000 cases a year. A qualified person who holds views I oppose would not get my vote.

    I think Snyder and Vance bring the typical prosecutorial mindset to the job. I think Aborn offers an alternative approach with reforms that can really move us past the failed, same-old "tough on crime" policies that have been in place for decades.


    by rrlieberma on Wed Aug 26, 2009 at 12:54:36 PM EST
    How interesting, and how typical of the lingering male-centered politics of our day, that Leslie's long held progressive views and accomplishments are being triivialized and marginalized, and even attributed to one of the two men running for DA.

    Four years ago the NYT said about Leslie: "Ms. Snyder is a lawyer of unquestioned ability and broad experience who understands the vast power that prosecutors wield and seems prepared to exercise it with proper restraint. She would come to the district attorney's office with impressive energy, new ideas and an obvious passion for building on Mr. Morgenthau's record."

    True then, true now.  

    the new york times endorsed (none / 0) (#3)
    by Jeralyn on Wed Aug 26, 2009 at 01:12:41 PM EST
    Cy Vance this year.

    The wrongly convicted man, Jeff Deskovic, who Snyder says caused her to change her view on the death penalty, endorsed Aborn, saying:

    "I'm pleased that my story inspired Judge Snyder to shift her position on the death penalty, but it's troubling that her revelation on such an important issue should come at such a politically expedient time," said Deskovic. "She has not taken any serious actions on the issue, whereas Aborn's record speaks loud and clear.

    For those who care about the preservation of rights and a level playing field for the accused, it seems to me Aborn is the best choice, and clearly most progressive in that area.