Cyrus Vance Jr., reportedly Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau's chosen successor, officially announced his candidacy for the office this morning on the steps of City Hall, paying homage to his former boss' decades of service and saying he would "build on that tradition."
"In the last 75 years there have only been three elected district attorneys," said Vance. "All three of them have been legends."
The challenge for Vance, who was surrounded by other former assistant district attorneys on the damp steps, is to project both a fresh voice while placing himself in the continuum of his popular (potential) predecessor, who he was most careful not to offend.
Saying he wanted to pick up where Morgenthau is leaving off, Vance, a trial lawyer, earnestly announced a commitment that one might imagine would be a requirement for the job ("As district attorney I promise you I will be fair") and laid out priorities: public safety in the face of economic crisis that could cause a spike in crime, an intense focus on while-collar crime and a reform of the Rockefeller drug laws to provide more treatment and less prison time for drug offenses.
As representatives from his consulting firm, Bill Lynch Associates, watched from behind the colonnade, Vance demurred when asked by a reporter how important Morgenthau's endorsement would be. Instead, he said that no official backing had taken place and then made sure to do nothing to change Morgenthau's mind.
He said he hoped he could "earn" the endorsement of Morgenthau, who he, once again, called a "legend."
Vance also made sure to defend the office against the criticisms of Morgenthau's rival in the 2005 race, Leslie Crocker Snyder, who Morgenthau is eager to keep out of office. She is running again with a message that the office had grown stale.
"I disagree with anyone who concludes that it's become stale," Vance said, citing the D.A.'s aggressive investigations of white-collar criminals.
(During Vance's press conference, Snyder's son, Doug, sent out an invitation to a March 31 fund-raiser at the Aspen Social Club called " Young Professionals Event for MY MOTHER." Vance, who hired Cindy Darrison, Paterson's former fund-raiser, has also been aggressively raising money.)
Morgenthau's apparent decision to back Vance, an endorsement which is considered, along with the editorial page of the New York Times, the most influential in the election, took some of his most senior prosecutors by surprise. Most of all Dan Castleman, Morgenthau's long time deputy, who considered himself next in line and who resigned when Morgenthau intimated he would not support him.
When asked whether Castleman had been burned–the Post quoted a source calling the D.A. "Judas"– Vance said "I have great respect for Dan," but limited his remarks to the candidates who have announced.
He later told reporters, "It wasn't a competition with Dan." He shook hands with supporters, and left under an umbrella with his wife and son.