Primary Culler: Snyder and Vance Spar in Manhattan D.A. Race; Might Aborn Be the Odd Man In?


The Manhattan D.A. primary race is a big deal; for the first time since 1975, Robert Morgenthau is not in it, and the three contenders are sprinting hard for the finish line:

Richard Aborn brought back former NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton and a chainsaw attack victim for his “closing argument”;

Cy Vance will spend Monday running around Manhattan with Morgenthau, who has endorsed him, and Harlem’s Rev. Jacques Andre DeGraff;

Leslie Crocker Snyder celebrates her endorsement by the National Organization for Women.

On Sunday the candidates debated, for the most part measuring their remarks for the liberal Manhattan electorate, leading the Daily News‘s Louis Anemone to declare, “All 3 DA wannabes are eager to ease up on criminals“…

Anemone was missing some subtext. If the race has a law-and-order candidate, it’s Snyder. She has the backing of several law enforcement organizations, and has promised to convene a grand jury in the 1979 disappearance of Etan Patz, for which she received the endorsement of Patz’ father. And she’s a legendary prosecutorial hard-ass, author of a book called 25 to Life celebrating her toughness while working in the D.A.’s office (from the Publishers Weekly review: “As she matter-of-factly puts it, criminals and their attorneys should be prepared for her to mete out tough sentences when circumstances demand it and in most of the cases recounted here, they do”).

Snyder has also leaned heavily her womanhood, tying Vance and Morgenthau with Eliot Spitzer in a presumed “old boys’ network,” and vowing to “break one more glass ceiling” as D.A. She also slams Vance for spending recent years practicing law in Seattle “when crime was high in Manhattan,” and while Snyder was dishing out 25 to Life sentences.

How this variegated approach will go over with Manhattan voters is an open question, whether or not Wayne Barrett’s reports on her unseemly campaign backers reaches them (not to mention Tom Robbins’ recent examinations of Snyder’s record). Some lawyers have recently responded negatively and publicly to Snyder’s harsh campaign tactics against Vance.

Vance mainly leans on the Morgenthau endorsement, and plumps an internal poll showing him ahead of Snyder. But even that poll shows nearly a third of the electorate undecided, which gives some hope to Aborn. The Bratton endorsement adds some law-and-order leavening to his impeccably progressive credentials, including his key role in passing the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act. Azi Paybarah pointed out in April that Aborn’s involvement messes with the implied Morgenthau-vs.-Snyder 2005 rematch in this race. If a sufficient number of Democratic voters decide to opt out of that paradigm, this one could end up a surprise.

(We caught the candidates at their Village Independent Democrats club pitch; Elizabeth Dwoskin recapped their April debate.)