One went to Yale, the other to Harvard. One was a federal prosecutor in Brooklyn, the other in Manhattan. One would be the first woman to head the Manhattan district attorney’s office, the other the first black person.
The two leading Democratic Manhattan district attorney candidates, Tali Farhadian Weinstein and Alvin Bragg, have similar pedigrees, and a recent poll actually showed them tied as the primary draws to a close on June 22.
But Ms Farhadian Weinstein has given her campaign $ 8.2 million in recent weeks, multiplying her lead in a fundraising battle she already dominates and angering her rivals who say she is trying to buy. the election. She spent some of the money on TV attacks that other candidates, including several who were not directly targeted, called inappropriate.
The vitriol was on full display Thursday during the primary’s only in-person debate, as the eight contenders for the race launched attacks on each other while focusing much of their energy on Ms Farhadian Weinstein.
One of his opponents, Dan Quart, warned the public against being fooled by his varnish.
“Ms. Weinstein’s measured tone should not obscure the real nastiness and lack of truthfulness of her attack,” Mr. Quart said during the debate, referring to an announcement and a dispatch he called ” ashamed ”.
While there will be a Republican candidate on the ballot in November, whoever wins the primary is almost assured of victory given Manhattan’s overwhelmingly Liberal electorate. He or she will take charge of an office that adjudicates tens of thousands of cases per year and handles some of the most significant investigations in the United States, including an ongoing investigation into President Donald J. Trump and his family business.
Ms. Farhadian Weinstein, who was backed by Hillary Clinton and Eric H. Holder Jr., the former United States Attorney General, has long been seen as a leader in the race, thanks in part to the more than 4.5 million dollars she’s raised from other donors, many of whom are Wall Street-related. It offered a more subdued agenda than most of its competitors, emphasizing the importance of public safety and focusing on hate crimes, sex crimes, and domestic violence.
But she was put on the defensive in the final days of the race, after ProPublica reported that she had paid little federal income tax in four of the past six years. She was also criticized for both a direct mail and a TV commercial in which she targeted Mr Bragg and Mr Quart in a way they characterized as racist and prey to voter fears.
During the debate, Ms. Farhadian Weinstein’s rivals challenged her on both the tax issue and the announcement from the first few minutes.
In the television commercial, an anonymous woman who identifies as a survivor of domestic violence said that Mr. Bragg and Mr. Quart would “put women and families at risk of further violence.” The announcement and dispatch uses stark imagery to suggest Mr. Bragg is a threat to women, a long-standing racist trope on black men. (The announcement and dispatch also cast a grim look on Mr. Quart.)
“Two million dollars she invested to smear my reputation, and that of Alvin too,” said Mr. Quart.
Mr Bragg said Ms Farhadian Weinstein’s material had racist overtones in the country’s worst traditions.
In response, Ms Farhadian Weinstein said her criticism of her two opponents was substantial. She said the same in an interview earlier today, adding that she didn’t think the ad was racist.
“I put the spotlight on the blind spots of the two men in the race for violence against women, ”she said in the interview.
Asked about the arguments that she is trying to buy the race, she said: “I’m trying to get my point across.”
Ms Farhadian Weinstein’s letter highlighted incidents after episodes in which the two sides file complaints against each other. She and others argue that when prosecutors dismiss such complaints without investigation, even when both sides agree to the dismissal, it can remain difficult to know who the real victim of the violence was, and cycles of abuse can continue without control.
Other candidates, including Mr Quart, argue that when such complaints are left open even when both sides agree they should be dismissed, the legal system prolongs government intervention in ways potentially detrimental to those who try. to continue their life.
Mr Bragg, a former New York deputy attorney general, sought to strike a balance in his campaign between a focus on public safety and civil rights. He said in an interview on Wednesday that the announcement and dispatch was a response to his campaign’s momentum.
“And that’s the worst kind of response,” he said. “The kind of response that is disgusting, obnoxious and has no place in politics and certainly not the Manhattan District Attorney’s Race.”
Another candidate, Liz Crotty, a former Manhattan assistant prosecutor who has been backed by several police unions, sharply criticized Ms Farhadian Weinstein in the debate and in a pre-interview.
“It slanders the fathers of two young women” – Mr Bragg and Mr Quart – “accusing them of being friendly with rapists,” Ms Crotty said of the dispatch during the debate. “This is not the subject of the district attorney’s office.”
Lucy Lang, another former prosecutor who only followed Ms Farhadian Weinstein and Mr Bragg in fundraising and polls, said she agreed with some of the substantive points made by Ms Farhadian Weinstein, but thought the way the message was delivered was inappropriate.
“I think the way she runs her campaign proves she doesn’t have the values we need to the district attorney’s office, ”Lang said.
Mr Bragg also took issue with a quote used in the ad and mail saying it would be “unfair to rape victims,” which came from the New York Daily News endorsement of Ms Farhadian Weinstein.
The passage in question refers to Mr. Bragg’s intention to reopen the cases handled by Linda Fairstein, the lead prosecutor in the Central Park Five case. His supporters say the position is consistent with his pursuit of justice for the wrongly accused.
Peter Neufeld, founder of Project Innocence who supported Mr Bragg, said Ms Farhadian Weinstein’s criticism of her competitor on the issue was puzzling, given she also stressed the need to roll back the wrongful convictions.
But Roberta A. Kaplan, founder of the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund and supporter of Ms. Farhadian Weinstein, said Ms. Farhadian Weinstein program on sex crimes could be trustworthy in part because she is a woman.
“I hate to play the gender card, but here I think it’s important to play the gender card,” Ms. Kaplan said. “These reforms are more likely to be successful if they are implemented and led by a woman. “
Ms. Farhadian Weinstein was also supported by the New York Post; Mr. Bragg was supported by the New York Times Editorial Board, which is separate from the Newsroom.
Along with Ms Crotty, Ms Lang and another former prosecutor, Diana Florence, three candidates with no prosecution experience – Mr Quart, Tahanie Aboushi and Eliza Orlins – are vying for voter support.
The entanglement and uniqueness of the domestic violence debate is typical of the race, in which there are strong disagreements among the eight Democratic candidates even as most say they would make significant changes to the race. office of the public prosecutor.
In the first few months of this year, candidates have mostly focused on these changes, proposing policies they believe would make the office less racist and fairer, and criticizing the tenure of current incumbent Cyrus R. Vance Jr., who announced in March that he would not be running again.
But as gun violence in New York City escalated and Ms Farhadian Weinstein became a leader in the race, conversations on candidate forums and the election campaign focused on public safety and everything the other candidates and their surrogates say they are troubling. his campaign.