Less than a year since the passing of Ken Thompson, the first elected Black district attorney in Brooklyn, voters in the borough could decide another historic precedence by electing one of three unprecedented contenders for the prominent position of authority.
Thompson, the very first of his race to win the confidence of the county’s electorates died last October at age 50 from colon cancer and among the seven candidates seeking to win the position of prosecuting criminals, his hand-picked successor Eric Gonzalez, and current acting district attorney, Marc Fliedner, the first openly-gay candidate to run for the position and Ama Dwimoh, one of his senior prosecutors, have all tossed their hats into a crowded field of contenders.
Gonzalez is the first Latino to ever serve in the position.
Fliedner, a former prosecutor in the Brooklyn district attorney’s office headed the civil rights bureau and is seeking to blaze a trail for the LGBTQ community.
If elected Dwimoh would be the first of her gender to win the confidence of Kings County voters.
Currently working as a special counsel to Eric Adams, Brooklyn Borough President, Dwimoh upped her campaign contributions when her boss doled out a $10,000 check in support of her bid.
He even coined a phrase — “First Obama now Ama.”
In four words Adams managed to interpret the historic significance of his endorsed candidate.
The catchy enticement to winning ballots next month could prove a unifying call to Democrats divided with seven candidates vying to score victory when the democratic primary elections are held on Sept. 12.
Like the first Black president of the United States, Dwimoh is biracial.
Raised by a West African father from the Ashanti Tribe of Ghana and a Native American mother from the Dakota Sioux Tribe, she could set precedence representing diversity in more than one category.
And with a first name sounding like the last syllable of the popular, unprecedented, historic leader’s, Adams may well be credited as a spin doctor.
However, Dwimoh has amassed her own impressive creds.
Currently Eric Adams’ special counsel and chief compliance and equal employment opportunity officer, she has been a prosecutor for 21 years.
The 53-year-old created a bureau for crimes against children under DA Charles J. Hynes (Thompson’s predecessor).
She was named Chief of the Crimes Against Children Bureau – a unit which she created and then ran for 13 years.
When she founded the bureau, it was the only specialized bureau of its kind in New York, dedicated exclusively to investigating and prosecuting cases of child homicides and child cruelty. Her work with the unit led to major changes in public policy and NYC laws.
She is credited with making major reforms at the Administration for Children’s Services (ACS) agency.
Early in the campaign she snagged endorsements from Hazel Dukes, president of the NAACP New York State Conference and Jabbar Collins, who was exonerated in 2010.
“Ama is the only candidate in the race for Brooklyn district attorney who truly understands the challenges facing our communities and who has the passion, experience and heart to deliver justice for all in Brooklyn,” Dukes said in a statement.
“I proudly support Ama’s campaign and look forward to helping her become Brooklyn’s next district attorney,” she added.
Ama is a member of Brown Memorial Baptist Church, and a founding member and vice chair of the Brown Community Development Corporation.
She has lived in the same neighborhood in Brooklyn, Prospect Heights, for more than 25 years.
Her upbringing instilled in her the importance of community, a strong dedication to justice and a deep understanding of and appreciation for different cultures.
She has used these lessons to serve Brooklyn’s diverse population as both one of the Borough’s most accomplished prosecutors and as a nationally renowned public policy and legal expert.
Last Saturday, she stopped into Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network in Harlem where a weekly rally regularly assesses politicians, police conduct and community issues.
There she presented a platform as well as well as pledges she plans to implement.
However, she must first prove she is capable of beating the incumbent Gonzalez who has been ably serving as the best replacement Thompson considered when he took a medical from office before his untimely death.
On many occasions, Gonzalez has been referencing the beloved boss he served.
He has been working in criminal law for 20 years and served as Thompson’s counsel, then as his chief assistant.
Gonzalez noted that he has helped vacate 22 wrongful convictions from the system and has changed the ethos of the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office.
He also pointed out that 2016 “ended as the safest year in Brooklyn history in terms of violent crime.”
In addition to the three would-be history-makers, the competitive race fields progressive candidates who have either worked as aides during the Charles J. Hynes’ administration that preceded Thompson’s tenure or are re-entering the political arena for a second go-round.
Patricia Gatling and Anne Swern honed their skills under Hynes.
Now serving in the city council, Vincent Gentile is looking to continue public service in the
Perhaps boasting the most experience at running, John Gangemi made his mark in the 1970s when he was elected to the city council.
Four years ago he tried again for elective office by running in 2103 for the office of president of the borough.
“It’s time for something new,” Fleidner said recently.
“I’m what new looks like because I happen to be the first openly gay man to ever run for DA’s office in our nation,” he said.
“And new means you create new things, that you’re innovative, like when I created a new Hate Crimes Bureau and created a new Civil Rights Bureau handling all these police misconduct cases,” he continued, “but most importantly, new means creating a system where we completely reinvent the way we do business because it’s broken…”
Only two district attorney positions — Brooklyn and Manhattan — are facing challenges.
However all five borough presidents — Queens’ Melinda Katz, Manhattan’s Gale Brewer, Staten Island’s James Oddo, Brooklyn’s Eric Adams and Ruben Diaz Jr. of the Bronx will be on the ballots.
In addition, all 51 city council seats are up for grabs.
Citywide positions of public advocate and comptroller will also be voted.
The two incumbents — public advocate Letitia James and comptroller Scott Stringer — are running for re-election.
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