A progressive group that has put its weight behind left-leaning prosecutors nationwide is backing Alvin Bragg, a former federal prosecutor, in the heated Democratic primary for Manhattan District Attorney.
Color of Change PAC, a group that since 2016 has successfully backed reform-minded prosecutors across the country from Philadelphia to Michigan to Atlanta, announced they’d be pitching in $1 million dollars through their political action committee to put towards mailers, canvassing, and phone-banking on Bragg’s behalf.
While Bragg has tacked more to the center of candidates like public defender Eliza Orlins and civil rights attorney Tahanie Aboushi, the group cited Bragg’s personal history in Harlem, his stance on criminal justice reform, and his management experience overseeing an office of 1,500 people, in explaining their selection.
“With his deep management experience, we believe he’s the best candidate to fix it on day one,” said Jennifer Edwards, senior director of the Color of Change PAC, citing Bragg’s promise to not use the NYPD’s gang database, to never seek life sentences, and to not seek cash bail except in limited cases of violent crime. “He’s from the community that he’s actually campaigning to serve so he understands the system and has direct encounters with the system.”
Bragg worked as an Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York under Preet Bharara, who has endorsed him. He later worked for then-New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and Barbara Underwood who replaced him.
But often Bragg spends time on the campaign trail evoking personal experiences with the criminal justice system, rather than professional ones. When asked at the first-televised debate between candidates last week whether gun possession should automatically trigger jail time, Bragg said his father owned an illegal firearm to protect the family from burglars, and how a relative charged with gun possession as a student stayed with the family after he was released from prison.
“I’ve lived it. And I know the harm of gun violence, but I also know the harm of over-prosecution and taking a gun case that doesn't have to do with public safety and turning it into something that should not be,” he said.
The million-dollar infusion of funds will no doubt give Bragg a leg up in the last five weeks ahead of the primary in June. So far, no other political action committee spent money on the race, state records show.
Through January, Bragg had raised $1.3 million, second only to Tali Farhadian Weinsten, another former federal prosecutor, who had amassed nearly a million dollars more than Bragg. Lucy Lang, a former Manhattan prosecutor who heads John Jay’s Institute for Innovation in Prosecution, was the third biggest fundraiser with $700,000 collected.
District Attorney Cyrus Vance is stepping down at the end of the year, leaving eight candidates vying for the post. Other candidates include former Manhattan prosecutor Diana Florence, public defender Eliza Orlins, criminal defense attorney Elizabeth Crotty, State Assemblymember Dan Quart, and civil rights attorney Tahanie Aboushi.
Unlike many city races where voters will be allowed to list up to five of their favorite candidates, ranked-choice voting does not apply to the Manhattan District Attorney’s race, and voters will have to select just one candidate.
The deadline to register to vote is May 28. Voters must be affiliated with either the Democratic or Republican party in order to cast a ballot in the primary election and the deadline to switch parties has passed. Early voting begins on June 12 and primary day is on June 22.