The Albany County District Attorney is facing a primary challenge. A local attorney kicked off his campaign today.
Former Albany County assistant district attorney Matt Toporowski made it official Tuesday at Citizen Action New York's Albany office. "We have two systems of justice. One for white, predominantly wealthy people. And one for everybody else. Black people, brown people, working-class people, poor people. I'm running for district attorney to re-envision how our criminal justice system can work for everybody and bring justice for all of us. That's why I'm running for district attorney."
A former prosecutor in DA David Soares’ office, Toporowski is 33. He says 16 years of Soares' policy of "overprosecute and overpunish" has put the community in crisis. "He's destabilized whole communities, increased crime, increased poverty. Destabilized generations of families. He's not made us more safe at all. David Soares' policies have fed into the system of mass incarceration. Albany County has a 50 percent higher incarceration rate than the state average because of David Soares. I worked in that office. But I resigned. Because I disagreed with how he approached prosecution. I disagreed with his overpunish and overprosecute approach. And I'll tell ya, I've spoken with many prosecutors that have since left that office, and they left for the same reasons that I've left."
Angela Kelly has been an assistant public defender in Albany since 2014. She praised Toporowski's stance on restorative justice. "...rather than perpetuating a myopic view of the criminal justice system, that overincarcerates, focuses heavily on punishment and retribution, as opposed to rehabilitation and restoration. I am confident that Matt will be successful in taking a more fair and balanced approach as the district attorney."
Toporowski says a district attorney's success shouldn't be measured by conviction rates. He claims Soares has "lost his way" and criticizes what he characterizes as Soares' "regressive" stance on bail reform. Soares, who is 50, is a past president of the New York State District Attorneys’ Association. He says he stands by his record as he seeks a fifth term. "I have over 16 years as district attorney establishing public safety policy here in our capital city. And we have a record that we are very proud of, and we want to talk about it. We also have a wonderful record of smart reform, and I believe that it's something that people will want to hear about if they don't already know."
In 2004, Citizens Action backed Soares as an "insurgent candidate" who "won against the odds." The group also endorsed him in 2012. The primary is June 23.