’Bye George! Abe drops out of district attorney race

Abe George throws down gauntlet against DA Hynes
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

And then there were two!

District attorney hopeful Abe George has dropped his bid to replace 24-year incumbent Charles Hynes, and is endorsing former rival Ken Thompson for the office of Brooklyn’s top lawman — a move Hynes’s camp is calling suspicious.

George — whom Thompson pressured to exit the race earlier this month — said he feared his staying in the Democratic primary race would siphon votes from Thompson and seal Hynes’s re-election.

“I had a choice to make: run for the sake of running just to say I had a good campaign and let Ken Thompson and I both lose and Joe Hynes be the victor, or put that aside and do what’s best for Brooklyn,” said the Sheepshead Bay native and former Manhattan assistant district attorney.

Thompson welcomed George’s support in his battle against Hynes, whose office has suffered a spate of scandals in recent years.

“Now we are united with the common goal of restoring integrity and justice to the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office, which for too long has failed to deliver,” the Clinton Hill resident and former federal prosecutor said.

But the incumbent’s camp accused the two contenders of shifty political scheming, and suggested that Thompson had offered George a high-powered job in the district attorney’s office if elected.

Making accusations: Hynes's team claimed Thompson offered George a job to get him out of the contest.
Photo by Steve Solomonson

“This is Tammany-style backroom dealing at its worst. It doesn’t pass the smell test,” said Hynes spokesman George Arzt. “The question is ‘what did Thompson promise George to drop out?’ ”

George admitted having had several conversations with Thompson in the two days prior to making his decision. But he denied that his fellow challenger promised him a position, and refused to speculate on the possibility of his working in the Brooklyn district attorney’s office — or on any potential future activities beyond campaigning for Thompson before the September primary.

“I wanted to talk to Ken about policy positions and see where he was at and where we were at, and after a few agonizing nights, I decided to back him,” said George. “I haven’t thought any further ahead than that. Hopefully I’ll be serving the public.”

Thompson’s camp returned fire at Arzt, highlighting Hynes’s decision to recuse himself from prosecuting disgraced Assemblyman Vito Lopez on allegations of sexual harassment. Critics have also accused the incumbent of failing to prosecute Hasidic and Orthodox Jewish child molesters in order to garner votes in those communities. His office has also come under fire for wrongful convictions resulting from the alleged misconduct of star assistant district attorney Michael Vecchione and retired police detective Louis Scarcella.

But the two candidates’ combined forces — and the weight of those scandals — still might not be enough to dislodge Hynes from power. Veteran political consultant Hank Sheinkopf said earlier this month that Hynes was likely to win his sixth re-election regardless of how many opponents he faced, arguing that incumbents rarely lose re-election bids and that the public is probably not following the bad publicity.

“Law enforcement offices are not easily vacated with challenges,” Sheinkopf said. “Hynes has had a terrible time on the PR side. The question is ‘are people paying attention?’ ”

But the money game remains close. Thompson’s campaign most recently reported having more than $500,000 in its warchest. Hynes has almost $590,000. George had roughly $145,000 before he dropped out.

One-on-one: Thompson is now the only challenger to six-term incumbent Charles Hynes.
Ken Thompson

Reach reporter Will Bredderman at [email protected] or by calling (718) 260-4507. Follow him at twitter.com/WillBredderman.