Tony Newman at (212) 613-8026 or Elizabeth Mendez Berry at (212) 613-8036
Albany–Democratic candidate for Albany County District Attorney David Soares defeated Republican Roger Cusick in what prominent WNYC radio host Brian Lehrer called “The most important race in New York State.” By winning on Tuesday, Soares, who ran on a platform of reforming the Rockefeller drug laws, completed one of the most stunning upsets in New York political history.
“Soares’ victory– first in the primary and now in the general election–proves that a political candidate can run and win on a platform that emphasizes sensible drug law reform,” said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance. “The drug war bandwagon has run out of gas in New York. Political momentum now clearly favors reform.”
David Soares’ win is significant primarily for two reasons. First, because district attorneys have been the main stumbling block for reform of New York state’s draconian drug laws: the defeat of a high profile incumbent who was one of the laws’ most vociferous defenders sent shock waves through the state’s D.A. establishment. The win has also shaken up the Albany political machine, because crimes in the state legislature fall under the Albany County D.A.’s jurisdiction. That means that the D.A. is responsible for addressing state government corruption. The incumbent Paul Clyne was often criticized for being soft on corruption, and so Soares’ victory has sent shivers through the Albany political establishment.
“The D.A.’s association thought they could block Rockefeller reform forever because they’d forgotten voters could actually fire them,” said Michael Blain, director of public policy for the Drug Policy Alliance. “But yesterday the people of Albany voted their hopes, not their fears, and this morning, there’s a new D.A. in town.”
Soares, a county prosecutor in the office of Democratic incumbent Paul Clyne’s office, defeated his politically-connected former boss in the September 14th Democratic primary, by a 62% to 38% margin, astonishing the Albany County political machine. That win was attributed by both Soares and Clyne to Soares’ vocal opposition to the Rockefeller drug laws. After losing his party’s nomination, Clyne continued to run on the Independence party line, mounting a mudslinging attack campaign against Soares that the Albany Times Union newspaper called “hysterical.”
Republican Roger Cusick, an adjunct law professor, lobbing unsubstantiated accusations at Soares. At the last minute, Clyne dropped out of the race, fueling speculation that he had coordinated with Cusick to defeat Soares. Clyne endorsed Cusick, making the race much closer. Soares picked up endorsements from the Albany Times Union, Congressman Mike McNulty, and Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, among many others.