Seven Democratic candidates seeking to be Brooklyn’s District Attorney participated in a forum Monday night at the First Unitarian Church, hosted by the The Reform Coalition, made up of 14 groups. It marks an unofficial start to a sprint toward September’s primary vote. Because Brooklyn voters are so heavily Democratic, the winner of the primary is all but assured general election victory as the borough’s leading prosecutor and law enforcement official.
Monday’s forum offered an opportunity for the candidates to build name recognition, define themselves to voters, and set themselves apart from the competition. Acting District Attorney Eric Gonzalez, who took over upon the death of DA Ken Thompson, has a leg up in the early going, because he currently holds the office, was close to Thompson, and given his accumulation of several significant endorsements.
The other candidates include some with ties to the Brooklyn DA office: City Council Member Vincent Gentile, Anne Swern, Patricia Gatling, Marc Fliedner, Ama Dwimoh, and John Gangemi. At the forum, they were asked questions from both the hosting coalition’s members and the general audience about topics such as enforcement of “low level” crimes, protections for the LGBTQ community, and racial disparities in the criminal justice system.
Thompson, who died in October 2016, loomed large at the forum and casts a long shadow over the race. In his relatively short time as DA, Thompson built a reputation as a reformer. In 2013, Thompson defeated long-time Brooklyn DA Charles Hynes, whose office was mired in scandal.
"The Bay Ridge Democrats were the first club in Brooklyn to endorse Ken Thompson in 2013,” President of the Bay Ridge Democrats, Chris McCreight said in a press release for the event. “We feel very strongly that the next District Attorney should have his integrity and his passion to fight for justice. We look forward to hearing from all the candidates at this forum."