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In Brooklyn, the Thompson vs. Hynes drama continues—and it’s not flattering to Hynes

Jonathan P Hicks | 10/24/2013, 5:48 p.m.
In Brooklyn, the Thompson vs. Hynes drama continues—and it’s not flattering to Hynes There seems to be no end to ...
Jonathan P. Hicks

In Brooklyn, the Thompson vs. Hynes drama continues—and it’s not flattering to Hynes

There seems to be no end to the drama that is surrounding the race for Brooklyn district attorney. And it is a spectacle that has tarnished the image of the long-term incumbent, who shows no sign of leaving the political stage with grace.

After Kenneth Thompson won the Democratic primary in September, he was positioned to become the first African-American district attorney in the history of Kings County. He beat incumbent Charles J. Hynes by about 10 percentage points. And that appeared to be that.

But in a series of moves that range from curious to preposterous, Hynes has demonstrated some incredible lapses in judgment. First, Hynes decided to renege on his promise to provide a smooth transition to Thompson assuming the office. Instead, Hynes opted to become a candidate on the Republican and Conservative lines, which is never a place of electoral strength in a boroughwide race in Brooklyn.

But Hynes has taken his campaign to shocking and irresponsible places. During a news conference on a gun bust, the incumbent district attorney made a comment comparing the gun smuggler to Thompson. When asked where the gun smuggler lived and whether he had a job, Hynes said: “What, are we talking about my opponent?”

But there’s more. Hynes’ campaign has been distributing a reckless flier that seeks to portray a link between Thompson and Clarence Norman Jr., the former assemblyman and first Black chairman of the Brooklyn Democratic Party. The flier, which was distributed in largely white areas of the borough, reads in part: “District Attorney Charles Hynes put corrupt political boss Clarence Norman in jail. His opponent let convicted felon Clarence Norman run his campaign. Don’t let a convicted felon run the district attorney’s office.”

Thompson has repeatedly denied that Norman had a role in his campaign and has called on Hynes to stop distributing the fliers. Hynes ultimately agreed to stop their distribution.

Nonetheless, the episode reveals something disturbing about the 78-year-old incumbent district attorney. By turning to a Willie Horton-like campaign strategy, he does a disservice to the people he seeks to represent—and to his own image as well.

In fact, Hynes’ behavior following the primary betrays a desperation to cling to his office that borders on pure recklessness. Brooklyn City Councilman Brad Lander said it best: “DA Hynes’ general election campaign is premised on an unfounded allegation largely designed to scare white people.”

Hynes has had a long and distinguished career. He has initiated a commendable alternative-to-prison program that has allowed drug-addicted defendants to return to society. He has established one of the most successful programs designed to address domestic abuse.

But after six terms in office, Hynes was clearly viewed by the voters in the Democratic primary as someone whose best days were behind him. They voted to move forward with a new, young and progressive attorney taking the reins of the office.

Instead of welcoming Thompson and embracing the new era that the soon-to-be district attorney represents, Hynes instead decided on undertaking a divisive and impractical campaign that serves no purpose in the long run. It’s a sad and lamentable spectacle for a man who should know well the perils of sowing discord.