MANHATTAN — A failed candidate for Brooklyn District Attorney has tossed his hat into the ring as a write-in candidate against Manhattan DA Cy Vance, who has come under withering fire this week for declining to prosecute disgraced movie producer Harvey Weinstein.
Marc Fliedner, a left-wing former prosecutor who was knocked out of the running in the Brooklyn Democratic primary in September, announced Wednesday that he hopes to unseat Vance, who will appear on the ballot unopposed on Nov. 7.
“No one should run unopposed, especially as it relates to the district attorney, which has no term limits and a long history of becoming entrenched for decades,” Fliedner told DNAinfo New York.
“When a district attorney runs unopposed there becomes a real danger of developing a culture of either overt corruption or a corruption of complacency,” the challenger added.
Whether he can actually run as a write-in candidate is unclear. Fliedner, a resident of Brooklyn, said the city’s Board of Elections told his people that it would accept his name as a write-in, but state election law appears to mandate that candidates in a local election live in the district they seek to represent.
Still, Fliedner is committed, saying the decision to challenge Vance as a write-in didn’t come from him but rather a supporter who didn’t want to see Vance win an uncontested reelection in November.
“I had no intention of challenging him, but when an engaged voter comes to you and says they want someone with a different vision for what justice looks like, I’m not gonna tell them to drop dead,” Fliedner said.
“I’m still talking about the things that matter and based on the social-media energy I’ve seen in the last few hours, I think people are listening,” he added.
Steve Sigmund, Vance's campaign spokesman, said the incumbent's tenure as Manhattan's top lawman spoke for itself.
"Cy Vance's established record prosecuting murder, sex crimes, financial abuse, domestic violence and a host of other crimes stands second to none," he said in an email. "We're confident that voters in Manhattan will continue to recognize that record on Nov. 7."
But the challenge arrived at a time at which Vance, who keeps a relatively low profile compared to other elected officials in the city, has been widely criticized for refusing to prosecute the rich and powerful.
First, an investigation by The New Yorker, WNYC and ProPublica found that Vance had dropped an investigation into real-estate fraud by Donald Trump Jr. and Ivanka Trump after a meeting with top Trump attorney Marc Kasowitz.
According to ProPublica, Kasowitz had donated $25,000 to Vance's 2013 reelection campaign, a sum the prosecutor returned prior to the 2012 meeting with Kasowitz. But several months after the meeting, Kasowitz made a larger donation of $32,000, and helped bundle more than $50,000 in contributions from others donors, the report found.
Then, on Friday, a day after The New York Times published a bombshell exposé on accusations of decades of pervasive sexual abuse of women by Weinstein, the International Business Times unearthed a $10,000 donation from Weinstein’s attorney in 2015, months after Vance dropped an investigation into Weinstein for allegedly groping model Ambra Battilana Gutierrez.
The scandal intensified on Monday, when The New Yorker revealed an audio tape captured by NYPD detectives in which Weinstein appeared to acknowledge the incident.
In a statement released Tuesday, Vance’s office said police erred in not contacting them before putting a wire on Battilana Gutierrez, and added the case was dropped due to concerns about the credibility of Weinstein’s accuser.
“Our best lawyers looked at the matter,” Vance said Wednesday. “I, like they, was very disturbed at the contents of the tape. It’s obviously sickening, but at the end of the day we operate in the court of law, not in the court of public opinion.”
NYPD investigators plan to revisit their probe into the sex crime allegations, sources confirmed Thursday.
Fliedner ran in the 2017 Brooklyn Democratic primary as a member of the Democratic Socialists of America on a platform of criminal justice reform, an end to broken windows policing, and the shutdown of Rikers Island, issues shared more or less by his five competitors. He came in third with 10.2 percent of the vote, nipping at the heels of second runner up Anne Swern, who earned just 11.5 percent.
Acting Brooklyn DA Eric Gonzalez, who was Thompson’s hand-picked successor, won the primary with 53 percent of the vote, and is running unopposed in November.
Correction: This story has been updated to clarify the amount of money donated personally by Kasowitz and the contributions to the 2013 Vance campaign bundled by the Trump lawyer.