The People's Prosecutor

In an Albany primary, a candidate for D.A. attacks the Rockefeller drug laws—and wins

In this primary contest, both the Soares and Clyne campaigns spent more than $100,000, but Soares had the more aggressive field operation. About 500 volunteers worked on his behalf, making calls or knocking on doors. In the weeks leading up to the primary, volunteers spoke with more than 20,000 voters. On election day, a 10-car caravan snaked through the county, blaring messages of support from local politicians. Soares visited Albany's housing projects, starting on the 12th floor of each building and working his way down, urging people on every floor to get out and vote.

When the results were announced later that evening, Soares had 14,030 votes and Clyne had 8,684.

In mailboxes all over Albany County: A new kind of campaign literature
photo: Courtesy of KnickerbockerSKD
In mailboxes all over Albany County: A new kind of campaign literature

Thedistrict attorneys in Manhattan and Brooklyn are up for re-election next year, and the Rockefeller drug laws are likely to be an issue in these races too.

Leslie Crocker Snyder, who is challenging Manhattan D.A. Robert Morgenthau, has talked publicly about her support for reform. (Last year, Penn, Schoen & Berland Associates, Inc. conducted a survey on her behalf, which found: "By far the most effective message seems to be the Rockefeller drug laws message.") Senator John Sampson was the only state senator to endorse Soares. He is expected to challenge Brooklyn D.A. Charles Hynes; after Soares won, Sampson called him and they discussed campaign tactics.

Meanwhile, Soares was still limping around three days after the primary, his feet sore from all his last-minute running. When he talks about his victory, he almost sounds like he can't quite believe it himself. About campaigning, he says, "I've never done this in my life. I never even ran for school president or student council. And here I am taking on the machine."

When the conversation turns to the Rockefeller drug laws, however, he is emphatic. "It is unquestionable that from this November on forward, the days of this antiquated statute are numbered," he says. "The fact that the most vociferous, inflexible member of the New York State D.A.'s Association is in jeopardy of losing his position—and primarily on the issue of the Rockefeller drug laws—is a moment for pause for every single elected official in the state of New York."

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