A ‘Tough Gal’ Counted Out In Manhattan DA’s Race

Leslie Crocker Snyder ran for Manhattan District Attorney for the second time in 2009. Without the support of outgoing District Attorney Robert Morgenthau, Ms. Snyder faced an uphill battle against Cyrus Vance, Jr. in her likely final run for public office.

The Chief captured this profile after spending the day on the campaign trail and the evening at Judge Snyder’s election party at the Grand Hyatt. 

The Chief

Sept. 25, 2009

A ‘Tough Gal’ Counted Out In Manhattan DA’s Race

Snyder Goes Down Punching

By TOMMY HALLISSEY

Leslie Crocker Snyder strode into a ballroom at the Grand Hyatt Hotel to a rousing round of applause from supporters on primary night, Sept. 15, as the PA blared the Jackson Five singing, “ABC, 1-2-3, baby, you and me, girl.” The tune rang bittersweet, however: the math that mattered to her was 44 to 30, the percentage by which Cyrus R. Vance Jr. had defeated her, with the third candidate for Manhattan District Attorney, Richard Aborn, getting 26 percent of the vote.

And so she kissed supporters on the cheek wistfully as she slowly made her way to the podium to deliver what she said would be her final concession speech. In a more-complex bit of math, while Robert M. Morgenthau had won re-election against her four years ago at 86, it would be politically unrealistic for Ms. Snyder to make a third run for the office at age 71 in 2013.

‘I’ll Continue to Be a Fighter’

“This crowd knows that we all ran together,” Ms. Snyder told her audience. “And I am disappointed in the results, as I know you are, but I’ve been a fighter my whole life, and I’m going to continue to be a fighter.”

Mr. Morgenthau, who will retire after nine terms in office, campaigned heavily for Mr. Vance after endorsing him and claiming Ms. Snyder lacked the humility to be a good DA.

Ms. Snyder, a former Criminal Court Judge who had served before that for nearly a decade as a prosecutor, ran on her record and reputation for being tough on crime. She founded the Sex Crimes Prosecution Bureau at the Manhattan DA’s Office and co-authored the state Rape Shield Law, which led many of the city’s law-enforcement unions to cast their support for her.

Detectives Endowment Association President Michael J. Palladino spent part of primary day canvassing for Ms. Snyder.

“I just think that given the field of candidates, she is overwhelmingly the most-qualified of the three,” he said. “She has dedicated her life to law-enforcement right here in our city. She’s proven that she can act in the best interest of the people of the borough of Manhattan.”

Ms. Snyder said the labor support had been important to her candidacy because “they know I can do the job.”

“I’ve gotten all those unions, the Clerks and the Court Officers; you name it, I’ve gotten it,” she said outside a polling station in Inwood. “It’s really important to me because they know I know the job inside out, and that I’m fair, and they’ve seen me on the bench for 20 years; same with all the law-enforcement unions.”

While Judge Snyder played up her courtroom past in the campaign, during its final weeks she shifted the focus to Mr. Vance’s departure from New York to Seattle two decades ago at a time when crime fueled by drug use made life here particularly perilous.

“I don’t think it’s been negative; it’s been factual,” she said on the afternoon of the primary. “What’s important to me is that voters know there is a choice between me, who’s been here protecting New York for 35 years, and someone who moved to the West Coast and spent 17 of the last 20 years out there and then expects to become DA. I don’t think the DA should be anointed.”

Responding to complaints by Mr. Vance, she said. “If you want to talk about negative, did you read some of Cy Vance’s supporters yesterday when they said I was like Sarah Palin? I don’t know that Sarah Palin has founded the first sex crime bureau in the country or written the rape laws.”

Morgenthau Loomed Large

Experience aside, Ms. Snyder, had to overcome the influence on voters of Mr. Morgenthau, which was a factor in Mr. Vance winning the endorsement of the city’s three daily newspapers. Recently, Ms. Snyder, who had accused the DA and Mr. Vance of being part of an “Old Boy Network,” reached out to Mr. Morgenthau in a personal letter that tried to make clear she held no personal grudge towards him.

“I wrote him a letter in the hopes that we could keep things pleasant, but I have no relationship with him,” she said. “I never had a relationship with him. I only worked with him a year and a half out of my nine years at the DA. I’ve always gotten along with him, but I never had a personal relationship with him.”

Surrounded by family members, she told her supporters, “I thank you and I hope I never have anything to do with politics again. I’m a tough gal, but I guess there are certain odds you can’t beat.”