Kindlon ousts Soares for Albany County district attorney

The Enterprise — Michael Koff

Celebrating at The Warbler in Delmar are, from left, Jessica Fournier, Jaime Czajka, and Alix Messier. Czajka got the most votes for Family Court Judge with 28 percent; in the five-way race for three spots, Jillian Faison and Ricja Rice-Ghyll also got the Democratic line.

ALBANY COUNTY — Lee Kindlon got 55 percent of the vote in Tuesday’s Democratic primary to oust District Attorney David Soares who has held that post for 20 years.

In a victory speech at The Warbler in Delmar Tuesday night, Kindlon thanked Albany County voters for their faith in him.

“I promise their faith in me will be mirrored,” he said, “when I restore the integrity, accountability, and leadership to the Albany County District Attorney’s Office.”

Campaigning door-to-door, Kindlon said, he learned residents “want an end to the status quo. They actually want to do something about working within the law and figuring out how to drive down the violent crime rate and guns.”

Kindlon concluded to cheers, “I’m going to fulfill those promises and more.”

The defense attorney, who had been defeated in a primary run against Soares a dozen years ago, had said in a June candidates’ forum hosted by the NAACP in Albany, “We have a crime problem here in Albany and that crime problem is a legacy of 20 years of inaction by David Soares.”

Earlier this year, Soares provoked a media firestorm for giving himself $23,000 in bonus pay with funds from state grants — money he later returned without any admission of wrongdoing. And, for a decade, questions and concerns have been raised about his spending of drug forfeiture funds.

During the NAACP debate and throughout his campaign, Soares had railed against the statewide reforms that he said hamper his job while Kindlon repeatedly said public safety is his priority.

According to unofficial results posted by the Albany County Board of Elections on Tuesday night, Kindlon received 11,603 votes to Soares’s 9,337 with an additional 131 write-in votes.

Roughly a fifth of the county’s 104,000 enrolled Democrats voted in the contest.

In November, Kindlon will face Republican Ralph Ambrosio who has served in the Navy, worked for the State Police, and been assistant district attorney in Greene and Columbia counties 

But the odds are stacked in Kindlon’s favor as, in round numbers, of Albany’s 211,000 voters, nearly half — 104,000 — are Democrats with 38,000 Republicans, 57,000 unenrolled, and the rest in small parties.

Kindlon said at the NAACP forum that he knew attempts have been made to criticize his role in the criminal justice system; one of Kindlon’s recent high profile cases was defending ​​Naumann Hussain, operator of the limousine company involved in the 2018 crash in Schoharie.

Being a defense attorney, Kindlon said, has taught him compassion. “It’s taught me how the criminal justice system can affect lives.”

He grew up on Lenox Avenue, he said, and now lives in New Scotland, not high-crime areas.

“I don’t have the same shared experience as a lot of the people I represent,” Kindlon said. “But I’ve done everything in my power because it’s my job, my ethical responsibility to get to know everybody, every family I’ve ever had to help. And that, more than anything else, gave me an education in terms of what’s needed.”

Kindlon said that, starting on Jan. 2, he would revamp and reorganize major crimes and dedicate as much money and manpower as needed “to take a crack at violent crime.”

“We’ve got to protect the victims of sexual assault,” he went on. “We’ve got to let them know that we’re finally on their side.

Kindlon said pointedly, “I’m going to show up to the office every day …. I lead from the front.”

Long-term, he said, the office would start using intelligence data from the Crime Analysis Center to deal with the “gun pipeline,” bringing in guns from out of state. “It’s not just going to be this reactive prosecution we have now,” said Kinlon.

He also recommended “hard conversations” in neighborhoods beset with violence. “I’ll invite everybody to sit around and talk and we’re going to come up with those solutions to finally, finally drive down what is the highest violent crime rate in upstate New York.”

He thinks police presence in neighborhoods is important. “You need to increase the actual number of units,” he said, noting Albany is down 70 or 80 cops. Police are there to break up domestic violence incidents and investigate crimes as well, he said.

Albany County once had “legendary prosecutors …,” said Kindlon. “They’re all gone.” Prosecutors, he said, don’t work for the money but because they’re “making a difference.”

“You’ve got to rebuild the ranks …,” he said. “We train the next generation of great men and women who are there because they understand that they’re making that difference.”

Kindlon also said most litigators in Family Court don’t “really have direction from up on high … When you don’t have a litigator in charge of your office, when your administrator barely shows up to work, there is no rhyme or reason or direction in terms of how the Albany County District Attorney’s Office handles raise-the-age cases.”

“The cynical view,” said Kindlon of Soares, “is that he just can’t do his job and he’s blaming Raise the Age for all these failures.”

Kindlon concluded, “The criminal justice system needs to become more equitable and fairer.”

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