Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Elections 2011: District Attorney

Evaluating Monroe County elections a few years ago, we concluded that for most races it came down to candidate, candidate, candidate.   In the race for District Attorney between Bill Taylor and Sandra Doorley, both parties nailed this one.

Democrat Doorley ran a solid campaign that maintained focus consistently, driving home a concept explainable in one word:   experience.   Republican Taylor also ran a very good campaign that hewed to message throughout:   I'll keep you safe.   Taylor emphasized as well the qualifications of his own experience.

In the end, voters decided either would keep them safe, but Doorley had more practice at it.

Having served as the sitting DA's understudy (as First Assistant DA) is a powerful argument.   Mike Green made it successfully in 2003 and Doorley repeated the feat.   It underpinned Doorley's collateral argument that she is successor to the tradition established by Mike Green and by Howard Relin before him, an idea voters liked.   It may have established her in the perception of many as a kind of virtual incumbent.

Perhaps more importantly, most voters don't know that the DA doesn't argue cases in court.   The DA manages an office full of people who do.   Therefore judgment, and managerial and people skills, which Taylor displayed abundantly as County Attorney -- head of another big law office -- are what matter.   TV ads featuring Doorley in full CSI/Marg Helgenberger impersonation may have been over the top, but played nicely on the popular misconception.   Which is what skillful campaigns do.

A Fair Campaign Committee decision against Taylor's advertising was absurd, but less so than the D&C's editorial comment this morning that it might have turned the race around from Taylor to Doorley.   Political insiders on both sides viewed the Taylor margin in the D&C's poll as suspect.   In any event, Doorley's margin of victory was sufficiently broad that it didn't turn on an FEPC decision.   It turned on the fact that Doorley closed the sale with voters.

From the perspective of Republican versus Democrat, voters chose the status quo.   Republicans had good reason to hope, with a great candidate for an open seat.   When you hope for a gain and have a decent chance, not getting it disappoints.   That disappointment was on display at the Radisson last night.

Looking at all races, however, the only change to Monroe County's political status quo yesterday was in favor of the GOP.   We'll explore this in upcoming postings.


Monkeytoe said...

I always wondered why everyone seemed so sure that Doorley was losing big.

It seemed to me, on paper, that she was clearly more qualified. And - I mean from the average voter's point of view. I understand the point about a DA managing and not really trying cases and agree with it. But most voters don't understand that. And, to some extent, you still want a DA who has tried all of those kinds of cases and understands the ins and out of them, etc., so that the DA is making decisions based on some level of experience - not just bean counting.

But I still wonder why Doorley was so disliked by everyone. The unions typically always endorse a dem. I don't buy that they wouldn't endorse her b/c she prosecuted Rahn and others. The union knows the DA doesn't have much choice when the media pressure is on. And Rahn was investigated by state police, wasn't he? The DA couldn't just bury that. Same with some of the other high-profile cop cases - like Nick Joseph.

So, I don't buy that answer. I must imagine that she simply is not a nice person and nobody who has worked with her likes her. That is the only explanation I can think of for both the unions and D&C not endorsing her.

Also, on another note, I heard a rumor lately that Taylor is related to Maggie Brooks. Any truth to the rumors about his being related to Brooks? That would explain how a virtual unknown in the Rochester legal community was suddenly named County Attorney and then nominated for DA in such a short time. I'm not saying he isn't a smart or talented guy, just that it is odd that someone so young and so unknown among other attorneys was named County Attorney just in time to bolster his resume to run for DA. That said, he did make a good candidate and has a future, but it just wasn't his time yet.

Anonymous said...

The unions didn't endorse her because Mike Green's dysfunctional DA's office continually lets the felons walk away from major felonies. The police are doing their jobs protecting people, but the DA's office lets the felons go. Check the arrests versus the actual prosecutions/indictments, if you can find that information from Green's office. The Annual report is mysteriously missing from the website.