Albany County District Attorney David Soares has kicked off his re-election campaign.
Soares, first elected in 2004 after winning a Democratic primary against DA Paul Clyne, is vying for a fifth term. He says he'll run on his record. "I've managed to create a team of experienced prosecutors, that, over the years, we've been able to take on every challenge that's come our way. We've been tough on crime and we've also been very smart about prevention. So it's not just about who you lock up, it's also about who you don't lock up."
By way of disclosure, Soares is a regular WAMC Roundtable panelist. He says his office has embraced progressive change. "I've been a reformer my entire career. I've been very proud of the fact that we've supported the reforms like Rockefeller reform, as well as raise the age in my office. I've raised expectations. We've gone beyond raise the age where the state has taken the position that they would do this for 16 and 17 year olds, we do it for 18 to 24 as well where we are giving people a second chance."
Soares' office has been involved in several headline-grabbing cases over the years — from then 16-year old Marquis Dixon being sentenced for robbery over a pair of sneakers to the UAlbany CDTA bus hoax where two former students were found guilty of falsifying reports surrounding a racially-charged assault in January 2016. "I can never guarantee an outcome in a case. The only thing that we can do is lawfully gather evidence and be able to advocate for our position in the most transparent way, and that's what we've done. And sometimes people aren't going to really like the outcome but it's the law, and it's not a television show."
Soares has tangled with Albany County Court Judge William Carter; the two didn't see eye to eye over prosecuting participants in downtown Albany's Occupy Movement. "Here's the thing about our wonderful system of justice in this country. We can disagree but not be disagreeable. I am the only prosecutor in the state of New York that's ever gone to the highest court in the land to protect the right of prosecutors not to prosecute people, as we did with the peaceful protesters that were engaged in Occupy Albany. And so that's a position that I took to some criticism by colleagues and others, and it's a decision that I stand by and one that I would do again."
In Soares' most recent term, an assistant DA in his office was moonlighting for a local defense attorney in a situation that raised ethical questions. Soares said he didn’t have any knowledge of the arrangement. I asked Soares, "Should you have, and should voters hold you responsible for that lapse?" Soares replied "Oh, absolutely not. I work with some amazing people. And even this particular gentleman, he's s been a great prosecutor. He's a great lawyer who had a lapse of judgment and I held him accountable for that. It was there was nothing to hide I was very transparent in expressing my a disbelief, but also completely unaware of, of that practice."
Why should voters choose Soares again? "Because voters took a chance with me in 2004, voters took a chance with me and I took that confidence that they instilled in me very seriously. And I've worked every single day to restore that faith and to let them know that they didn't make a mistake. And to too much to the credit of the people that I work with into my leadership, we've been able to reduce crime in Albany County and have been able to to protect families, and at the same time, reduce our jail populations. And I remember in 2004 people laughed at that very idea, but we've proven them wrong."
Soares ran unopposed in 2012 and 2016. It’s not yet clear if he will face opponents this year.