In NYC Election, Only Staten Island DA’s Job Threatened

Three of New York City’s five district attorneys are up for re-election this year, but there’s only doubt about the fate of one incumbent, Staten Island’s Daniel Donovan.

Two of the veteran prosecutors, Richard Brown in Queens and Robert Johnson in the Bronx — will appear on the Democratic, Republican and Conservative lines and will not face any opposition.

Brown, who will turn 79 later this month, is headed to his sixth-term.

Staten Island District Attorney Daniel Donovan is running for re-election. On Nov. 8, Donovan may lose his seat to Mike Ryan. AP/John Marshall Mantel.

Johnson, who already is in his sixth term, was the first black district attorney in the state. In a somewhat strange twist, he received a rating of “not approved” by the city bar association this year. Johnson attributed the rejection to his not agreeing to an interview with the association and said he thinks it make little sense for the group to rate candidates in uncontested elections.

“If they think that I have not demonstrated the qualifications to hold this office,” Johnson told Reuters, “they must have been stuck in a cave for the past two decades.”

The bar does not explain or amplify on its ratings although they do not endorse candidates they can’t interview.

The Staten Island race offers a reprise of the 2007 race in which Republican Donovan defeated Democrat Mike Ryan with about 70 percent of the vote. Donovan has the backing of the Independence Party too, while — perhaps owing to a long-standing rift between Donovan and Conservative Borough president James Molinaro — Ryan has the Conservative Party line.

Donovan, who ran unsuccessfully for state attorney general last year, first became Staten Island district attorney in 2004. He previously worked for the Manhattan district attorney and served as deputy borough president in Staten Island.

Ryan, who began his career as a probation officer, served as the city’s acting deputy criminal justice coordinator and was a commissioner on the Board of Elections. He is currently in private practice.

By most accounts the contest between the two men has been spirited. They have clashed over the borough’s crime rate, effort to fight prescription drug abuse, the sharp increase in rape in the borough — which Donovan attributed largely to a rise in statutory rape – and Ryan’s conducts as an attorney, in particular his defense of a woman whose pit bulls killed an elderly man. Donovan has cited the relatively low crime rate on the island and his conviction rate, while Ryan has charged him with not taking on touch cases.

Both side have snagged some high-profile endorsements. Former mayors Ed Koch and Rudolph Giuliani back Donovan, as do an array of law enforcement unions and the United Federation of Teachers. Gov Andrew Cuomo is supporting Ryan as are a large number of labor unions.

Donovan had a clear lead in fund-raising. Eleven days before the election, he reported raising $117,375 and had a closing balance of $194,170.01. Ryan had raised almost $27,000 and had more than $21, 659 on hand.

For more on who can vote and how this year, go here. For more on the judicial contests, go here.

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