Race, crime, Trump loom over Manhattan DA race

In the past 46 years, the Manhattan district attorney's office - among the most powerful prosecutors in the country - has only changed leaders twice.

Both times - in low-key elections focused heavily around fighting crime.

Not this year.

Eight Democrats and one Republican are vying to replace Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, who announce in March he would not seek re-election.

Whoever wins could transform law enforcement in America's biggest city while inheriting the most politically fraught case in modern times: the criminal investigation into former president Donald Trump and his family business.

In interviews with Reuters, the candidates offered competing visions for the job.

Eliza Orlins, a longtime public defender, says under her the vast majority of misdemeanors wouldn't be prosecuted.

"The things that get prosecuted here in Manhattan that I've seen over and over as a public defender are crimes where really we've criminalized poverty or mental health issues."

Alvin Bragg, a former federal prosecutor and deputy attorney general and the only Black candidate, said he also would drastically reduce prosecutions of misdemeanors and address a police over-response to minor crimes.

"Think of Eric Garner, untaxed cigarettes. Should that be something we're using militarized force? Of George Floyd, a counterfeit bill? Should that be within the scope of our criminal justice system?"

Dan Quart, a seven-term assemblyman, said he would end the practice of cash bail, which he says unfairly harms minorities.

"The connection between one's wealth or lack thereof is immoral, if not, in my view, unconstitutional."

But Thomas Kenniff, the only Republican in the race, fears some reforms could make the city more dangerous.

"A city like New York cannot function without law and order."

Overshadowing the race is the criminal investigation into Trump. The district attorney's office's is examining whether the former president engaged in criminal tax evasion among other potential charges.

Tahanie Aboushi, a civil rights attorney, says she is best positioned to tackle the Trump case.

"When he issued the executive order banning Muslims, I went right to JFK and stayed there for three to four days straight filing petitions until we got every last person out of detention."

The candidates make up the largest and most diverse field in the 220-year history of the office.

Six are women - all vying to make history as the first female D.A. in Manhattan.

Lucy Lang and Tali Farhadian Weinsten are two of them.

"Women have the ability to transform the criminal justice system because women do things differently."

"We have really not done right by women as prosecutors in taking seriously violent crime against them."

The primary election is in June.