The Democratic field for Brooklyn DA could splinter votes

Tuesday marks the end of a hard-fought primary to replace former Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson, who died unexpectedly last year. The six-person race may come down to who voters believe can best carry on Thompson's legacy. NY1 Political Reporter Bobby Cuza has a preview.

He was in office for less than three years before his death last year at age 50, but Ken Thompson's reform efforts left such an imprint that the Democratic candidates seeking to replace him have spent months trying to align themselves with him, including at last Tuesday's debate on NY1.

"I'm the only one up here now who actually worked side-by-side with Ken Thompson," candidate Ama Dwimoh said on the debate stage.

"I can come to this job much like Ken Thompson did," said candidate Vincent Gentile.

"I think it's clear that Ken chose me to continue the legacy because he thought I was the best prosecutor to take us to the next step," candidate Eric Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez, the acting Brooklyn district attorney, was Thompson's hand-picked successor — a fact he's not shy about sharing with voters.

More than any other candidate, Gonzalez has the resources to get his message out: He's raised close to $1.8 million, and has spent close to $400,000 on direct mail, which he has used to bombard Brooklyn voters.

Gonzalez has also won virtually every critical endorsement in the race, and it's made him a target; Dwimoh was an early Thompson supporter, which has led to some sniping.

"After really riding on Ken's coattails, now you want to talk the talk," Dwimoh said during the debate.

"You take claim to helping him run for office," Gonzalez responded.

The race is also notable for its total lack of any tough-on-crime rhetoric. The candidates have instead jockeyed to be seen as the most progressive reformer.

"I've learned how to keep people out of the system," candidate Anne Swern said.

"Reduce our reliance on jail," Gonzalez said.

"I'm not going to charge resisting arrest," candidate Patricia Gatling said.

"End Broken Windows, to end cash bail, to finally stop feeding into this for-profit prison-industrial complex," candidate Marc Fliedner said.

On most issues, the candidates generally agree, and nearly all had long stints under former District Attorney Joe Hynes, who left office under a cloud — a point of emphasis for the only elected official in the group, City Councilman Vincent Gentile.

"If we want to go back to the Joe Hynes Era, pick one of them," Gentile said.

Voters will have to pick one of the six, a crowded field that could splinter the vote, making the outcome hard to predict.

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