In the heated race for Manhattan District Attorney, new fundraising totals show deep-pocketed donors continue to throw support behind one candidate, who has outraised her opponents by more than $2 million. The latest numbers come as two major New York newspaper editorial boards tapped two different candidates in the race, offering differing visions for the future role of one of the most influential law enforcement posts in the country.
Eight candidates are vying to be the next Manhattan District Attorney, a race that’s ignited a fierce discussion about criminal justice reform just as the city faces a spike in hate crimes and gun violence. There are no term limits for the post, and the next district attorney could serve for a generation. The current district attorney, Cyrus Vance, who’s been in office since 2010, is not seeking re-election. And unlike all other city races this election cycle, candidates will not be elected through ranked choice. Manhattan voters will have to select one candidate.
On Thursday evening, former federal prosecutor Alvin Bragg, a lifelong Harlem resident, earned the coveted endorsement of the New York Times editorial board. It cited his managerial bona fides overseeing an office of more than 1,200 employees when he served as chief deputy New York’s attorney general office, and his successful lawsuit against the Trump foundation. In a statement Bragg said he was, “excited by the energy and support we see building,” in recent weeks.
A day earlier, the New York Daily News editorial board had thrown its weight behind another former federal prosecutor, Tali Farhadian Weinstein. In its endorsement, the board mentioned her plans to create a new bureau to prosecute perpetrators of gender-based violence and cited her commitment to balancing reform with more moderate stances on issues like sex work.
With $4.4 million amassed since the start of her campaign last summer, Farhadian Weinstein has outraised all other seven in the race by more than $2.2 million. As Gothamist/WNYC previously reported, she’d tapped into the ultra-wealthy circle of multi-millionaire Wall Street donors. Some of those contributors know her through her husband, Boaz Weinstein, a hedge fund founder and manager.
Her campaign’s mid-May filings show that pattern continued in the last four months. Farhadian Weinstein, who immigrated from Iran as a child and was raised in New Jersey, received more than $1.5 million, with single contributions of $10,000 or more. Her nearest competitor, Bragg, only raised $246,000 in donations of that size during the most recent fundraising period. Seventy-five donors during this filing period gave in chunks of $10,000 or greater to Farhadian Weinstein, three times that of Bragg. A spokesperson for Farhadian Weinstein, said she has a “broad coalition of support,” citing recent endorsements from Rep. Nydia Velazquez.
Unlike most offices up for grabs this election cycle, the Manhattan District Attorney position is a county office not a city one, meaning state election laws, not city ones apply. Donors can give up to $37,829, instead of the $5,100 they can give to candidates in citywide races for mayor, comptroller, and public advocate.
Other candidates have struggled to gain momentum in the crowded field. Assemblymember Dan Quart, who’s pushed for criminal justice reforms in the state legislature including recent bail reform laws, has raised the third most overall. But $700,000 of that comes from donations he’d collected in prior campaigns. Lucy Lang, a candidate who worked in Vance’s office and then led John Jay’s Institute for Innovation in Prosecution, surged ahead with the second most new funds raised, though $500,000 of that came from a check she cut to her own campaign, which is permitted under New York State election law. When asked about the donation to her own campaign, Lang made a dig at fundraising frontrunner Farhadian Weinstein.
“We will do whatever it takes to ensure the next Manhattan District attorney is an experienced progressive who can effectively manage the office and whose views are shaped – not by Wall Street or the political establishment – but by those most impacted by the justice system – crime victims, formerly incarcerated people, and their families,” Lang said.
While there’s been limited polling in the race, one snapshot of 281 Manhattan voters from early May had Farhadian Weinstein ahead with 19% of the vote, with Lang in second at 10%, though a third of voters polled were undecided.
Progressive support has splintered between civil rights attorney Tahanie Aboushi, who has the backing of the Working Families Party and Bragg, who clinched the nomination of Color of Change PAC, a national group that has backed reform-minded District Attorney’s nationwide. That endorsement came with $1 million in the PAC’s funds they’re putting towards mailers, canvassing and phone banking on his behalf.
Public defender Eliza Orlins, the most left-leaning candidate in the race, had the greatest number of individual donations and the lowest average donation, though just about a fifth of them listed a Manhattan address. Orlins, a one-time competitor on reality television show Survivor, has more than 120,000 Twitter followers, though it remains to be seen if she can convert Twitter clout into votes from Democrats in Manhattan.
Elizabeth Crotty, a criminal defense attorney backed by several police unions, is the only person in the race not describing herself as progssive. She’s bristled in zoom forums where other candidates talked about crimes they would decline to prosecute. And Diana Florence, another former Manhattan prosecutor, has been dogged by allegations of misconduct by her former boss Vance and admonished by the New York Criminal Bar Association, which she dismissed as a sexist attack.
Early voting starts on June 12th. Primary day is June 22nd.