The Observer Endorses…

Cyrus Vance Jr. For Manhattan District Attorney

This year marks the end of an era at Hogan Plaza, where Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau has been prosecuting criminals for more than 30 years. Mr. Morgenthau has chosen to retire at the age of 90; Manhattan’s Democratic voters will choose the living legend’s successor on Tuesday.

The pending vacancy has attracted three well-qualified candidates, Richard Aborn, Cyrus Vance Jr. and former judge Leslie Crocker Snyder. The Observer recommends Mr. Vance, a veteran lawyer who, like his two opponents, served as an assistant district attorney in Mr. Morgenthau’s office earlier in his career.

Unlike Ms. Snyder, who has a knack for garnering publicity, Mr. Vance has worked out of the public spotlight while compiling an accomplished record as both a civil and criminal attorney along with his years as a prosecutor. Ms. Snyder, a onetime judge who unsuccessfully challenged Mr. Mogenthau four years ago, talks tough about street crime and other offenses, but she seems less engaged in the vital work of prosecuting white-collar criminals, from scam artists in the boardroom to ethically challenged lenders.

Mr. Vance understands that Mr. Mogenthau has been a national leader in the prosecution of corporate malfeasance in addition to being an effective administrator of a huge office—the Manhattan DA oversees more than 500 attorneys. The task of presiding over such a large operation, and the challenges that come with such a complex case load, will try the patience and competence of anyone who believes the job is simply about getting the bad guys. Mr. Vance best understands the prosaic tasks that accompany the occasional glamour that comes with the job of Manhattan DA.

 

David Yassky For City Comptroller

Incumbent Comptroller William Thompson chose to run for mayor rather than reelection this year, creating a vacancy that four Democrats hope to fill. Councilman David Yassky, an earnest, hardworking public servant, is the best of a field that also includes three Queens council members, John Liu, Melinda Katz and David Weprin. The city comptroller functions as New York’s chief financial officer and, ideally, as a fiscal watchdog. An aggressive or ambitious comptroller can (and perhaps should) bump heads with the mayor on occasion simply by keeping a sharp eye on how taxpayer funds are being used.

Mr. Yassky has demonstrated admirable independence as a member of the City Council. He has promised to use the office’s auditing powers to identify waste and inefficiency in the city’s budget. He also has promised to resist pressure from the private sector when it comes to investing and watching over the city’s pension fund of more than $80 billion. 

Mr. Yassky trails all three of his rivals in fund-raising, which speaks well of his distance from the special interests that would like to have a friend in the comptroller’s office. With any luck, Democratic primary voters will not simply cast a ballot for the candidate with the most compelling (and expensive) commercials. Instead, we urge them to choose the most independent candidate, Mr. Yassky.

 

Mark Green For Public Advocate

If you’re just back from the beach or the country and you’re only just starting to pay attention to Campaign ’09, you might well wonder if you’re in some terrible time warp. Yes, that’s Mark Green—the Mark Green—who has been soliciting your vote for public advocate. No, it’s not 1997 again. But yes, Mark Green indeed is running for public advocate again.

As the city’s first public advocate, elected in 1993 when the office was created, Mr. Green established the template for the office. Times have changed, but Mr. Green’s commitment to public service has not. He faded from the scene after his defeat in the mayoral election of 2001, but now he’s back. The Observer recommends his return to the office he created.