Brooklyn primary voters rendered a stunning verdict on six-term District Attorney Charles “Joe” Hynes — and sentenced him to retirement.
Former federal prosecutor Ken Thompson scored an historic upset against Hynes in the Sept. 10 Democratic primary — bringing the incumbent’s 23-year tenure as Brooklyn’s top lawman to a startling close. Thompson is the first challenger to unseat an incumbent district attorney in more than a century, and will become the first African-American to hold the office.
Hynes — who had already secured the Republican and Conservative lines on the November ballot — chose to bow out of his position. The defeated DA said he would spend the following months working with Thompson to transfer the reins of power.
“I had a very, very good conversation with Ken Thompson, very respectful, and I’m looking forward to working with him,” Hynes said at his campaign’s party at the Heights Cafe in Brooklyn Heights.
Thompson praised Hynes at his victory celebration at Sanders Studios in Clinton Hill.
The gracious remarks contrast sharply with the raw rhetoric of the campaign trail. The two battled in a bitter race, with Thompson capitalizing on a spate of scandals in Hynes’s office.
The challenger slammed Hynes for recusing himself from prosecuting disgraced Assemblyman Vito Lopez on allegations of sexual harassment because of his close political ties to the former Democratic Party boss. And Thompson went after the incumbent for several wrongful convictions resulting from the alleged misconduct of star assistant district attorney Michael Vecchione and retired police detective Louis Scarcella.
Hynes also suffered from bad press over his office’s weak response to sex abuse cases in the Orthodox Jewish community — a voting block that long backed him.
Hynes pointed to Thompson’s representation of a hotel maid who accused International Monetary Fund chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn of rape in 2011 — where the trial lawyer’s conduct triggered an investigation by the Manhattan district attorney. Hynes has also hit Thompson for defending disgraced state senators Pedro Espada and John Sampson while Thompson was serving as the legislative body’s attorney during the Aqueduct “racino” scandal in 2011.
A second Hynes challenger, Abe George, dropped out of the race in late July and endorsed Thompson.
The last time a challenger defeated a sitting DA was in 1911, when John F. Clarke lost to James Cropsey.