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Albany County DA Primary Goes Down To The Wire

picture of Your Vote Counts pin
Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

The Democratic candidates for Albany County District Attorney have solidified their positions going into Tuesday's primary.
Sixteen years ago, David Soares upended his former boss in the decisive Democratic primary for Albany County District Attorney. Tuesday, Soares himself faces a challenge from a former attorney in his office, Matt Toporowski. The two recently engaged in a virtual debate sponsored by the League of Women Voters. Soares declined to debate Toporowski a second time, but both candidates spoke with WAMC over the weekend.

Toporowski defended his record after a series of Times Union articles detailed disciplinary measures he underwent before, the D.A.’s office says, it asked for his resignation.

Toporowski says people are demanding systemic change across the board to the justice system.

"Saying the name of Ellazar Williams here locally, shot in the back, paralyzed from the chest down, and this DA didn't call for a special prosecutor even though the community demanded one. The fact that he has done nothing in the face of Alice Green, Dr. Alice Green's recommendations to address structural racism, uh and really has ignored the community for too long. And so the only reason that we're talking about a silly photo or anything else, Dave, is because on the issues, my opponent loses, which is why he wouldn't debate me on Spectrum."

At a Saturday rally in Washington Park, Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan and County Legislator Carolyn McLaughlin discussed their recent endorsements of Toporowski.

Sheehan criticized a statement attributed to Soares promising to continue to "chip away at racism in Albany County." McLaughlin seconded the mayor, hailing Toporwoski:

"Someone who will bring out the bulldozer and not chip away at the structural racism that exists in Albany County."

That drew this response from Soares:

"I find Carolyn McLaughlin's comment and that of the mayor to be absolutely rich considering I'm an African born African-American male who is 50 years old and I've been black my entire life. The idea that someone else would have a greater incentive to eliminate racism is absolutely rich and the idea that someone is going to come along and do it with a bulldozer in a country that's had over 400 years of racist practices is even richer."

Toporowski says the primary for DA is the most important race Albany County has seen in years.

"The Distrtict Attorney's office is the most powerful actor in the justice system, and we have seen, recently and for too long, how this justice system has failed so many communities, particulalrly communities of color, how it has criminalized them for too long, how it has overincarcerated them for too long. And so all the people that are out there demanding change, systemic change, in the street, to this justice shystem, I want them to know that since February of this year, I've been running my campaign on these issues."

For his part, Soares says the work he began after his upstart campaign in 2004 continues today.

Then Now "David Soares in 2004 fought against dangerous policies and draconian policies like the Rockefeller Drug laws. David Soares in 2020 is fighting against reckless reform such as the 2019 bail and discovery refroms, which is part of the problem that we're having right now with so much gun violence. Depriving judges of judicial discretion by making sure that dangerous people continue to be held accountable throughout the process, does nothing but contribute to more violence on the streets. And given the fact that in Albany County, the city of Albany specifically, we're seeing 24 people shot in a matter of 22 days speaks volumes about the reckless reforms that people who profess to be agents of change are endorsing."

Soares contends he’s never stopped working to improve the criminal justice system. He also predicts record turnout for the race.

"I think Tuesday will be wonderful bellwether for this campaign and us knowing exactly the margins by which we will win."

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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