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Gonzalez Announces DA Bid With Pledge to Continue Ken Thompson's Legacy

By Noah Hurowitz | April 26, 2017 3:56pm
 Eric Gonzalez, flanked by Public Advocate Letitia James (left), his son Cole, and his mother Carmen, celebrates the launch of his campaign for Brooklyn District Attorney Wednesday.
Eric Gonzalez, flanked by Public Advocate Letitia James (left), his son Cole, and his mother Carmen, celebrates the launch of his campaign for Brooklyn District Attorney Wednesday.
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DNAinfo/Noah Hurowitz

BEDFORD-STUYVESANT — Acting Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez on Wednesday formally announced his candidacy with a pledge to continue the work of his late boss and predecessor, Ken Thompson.

Backed by members of several influential unions and flanked by his family, Gonzalez said his experience working with Thompson made him more qualified than anyone to continue that work, which he described as a mission to make Brooklyn's criminal justice system more fair for all.

"Our work is not done. The light that Ken Thompson shone down on this borough must continue to light the way of his successor," Gonzalez said, at a festive press conference in Bed-Stuy's Restoration Plaza. "It's one thing to claim you're going to continue Ken's legacy, but it's another to have been part of it, to have lived it, and to have continued it in his absence."

Gonzalez was joined onstage by Thompson's widow Lu-Shawn Thompson, who said Gonzalez is the man to carry on her late husband's work.

"A vote for Eric Gonzalez is a vote for my husband's legacy," she said.

He got endorsements from Public Advocate Letitia James, Councilman Brad Lander, and representatives of SEIU 32BJ, the Transport Workers Union, and the Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union.

Gonzalez took over the Brooklyn DA's office as Thompson's handpicked successor when Thompson succumbed to cancer in October, following an historic unseating of longtime DA Charles Hynes in 2013.

Thompson — a former assistant U.S. attorney whose cases included the prosecution of a 70th Precinct officer who brutally beat and raped Abner Louima — cast himself as a reformer. He instituted a large-scale conviction-review process that exonerated 22 inmates and launched Begin Again, a program aimed at clearing a warrant backlog and solving the legal problems of low-level offenders.

Gonzalez has continued in that vein, holding ongoing Begin Again events and, this week, announcing a plan to work with immigrants in Brooklyn courts in an attempt to help them avoid Trump's deportation policies. 

At the press conference, he announced his intent to go a step farther with the Begin Again program, revealing plans to vacate all low-level summons warrants 10 years and older.

"A $25 fine from 10 years ago should not land anyone in jail," he said.

The race has become crowded, with Gonzalez facing challenges from a handful of other candidates including Anne Swern, who served for more than three decades as a Brooklyn prosecutor, including a stint as first deputy to Hynes; and Ama Dwimoh, a former Brooklyn ADA who now works in Borough President Eric Adams' office, according to news reports.

Another contender is Councilman Vincent Gentile, who announced his intention to run for DA in an interview earlier this month.

But when it comes to campaign donations and spending, Gonzalez is ahead of the pack. Papers filed earlier this year show that, as of January, he had raised $866,352.88 and spent $76,419.08, records show.

As of January, Swern had raised no donations but did take out a $150,000 loan, and had spent none of it on the campaign, records show.

Dwimoh, as of January, had raised just under $50,000, mostly in small donations, taken out a loan of $50,000, and spent about $1,000, according to campaign finance records.

Gentile, meanwhile, disclosed in January that he had raised just over $85,000, but had spent just $128 at the time of filing, records show.