In the last laps of the race for Manhattan district attorney, a leading candidate has pulled out all the stops: money dumps, smear mailers, the sexism card, and character assaults.
And she seems strangely upbeat about it.
Such is the m.o. of Tali Farhadian Weinstein, who has recently deposited no less than $8.2 million of her own money into her campaign (an amount likely to increase). That is in addition to the $4.4 million she previously raised, driven by large donations from Wall Street executives. The candidate, as Pro-Publica recently revealed, has paid almost no income taxes in four of the last six years, because her husband Boaz Weinstein is able to write off his unsuccessful hedge fund bets as income losses.
The no-holds barred approach to the campaign raises serious questions about how Weinstein would handle the office if she wins. One thing is crystal clear: the candidate’s priorities have shifted throughout the campaign.
As the race took shape last summer, Weinstein highlighted her work as general counsel to Brooklyn DA Eric Gonzalez, who is ostensibly the most progressive of the city’s five district attorneys. She touted her work in helping the Brooklyn office create its Post-Conviction Justice Bureau.
Critics have charged that Weinstein overstated both her role in the Brooklyn office as well as the extent to which Gonzalez is currently moving forward with exonerations. But if nothing else, such claims suggested that Weinstein would make the issue of overturning wrongful convictions central to her campaign.
Yet in recent weeks, Weinstein’s mailers have asserted that her leading opponent, Alvin Bragg, is “unfair to rape victims” because he has called for reviewing the sex crime convictions of Linda Fairstein, the prosecutor in the Central Park Five case. As Jared Trujillo of the NYCLU noted, Weinstein is thus “weaponiz[ing] racist tropes” to score political points. In a debate last week, the candidate nonchalantly referred to the smear mailers as “contrast statements.”
Weinstein’s mailers have also attacked Bragg and fellow challenger Assemblyman Dan Quart as being unconcerned about protecting women from domestic violence. This distorted charge stems from a matter involving prosecutorial handling of some DV cases. Several of Quart’s colleagues in the Assembly (where Quart has been a leader in fighting sexual harassment) spoke up in his defense, including Yuh-Line Niou, even though she’s supporting Tahanie Aboushi in the DA’s race.
As Quart’s communications director Kate Smart noted, as Weinstein has lurched to the right during the campaign, the agenda section of her site has changed accordingly. In January of this year, a section on “fairness” was at the top of the list. Now it’s absent, with gun violence, gender violence, DV, sex crimes and subway crimes as her top five.
In January, post-conviction justice was eighth on Weinstein’s priorities—now it’s 16th, just ahead of “ethics and campaign finance.” On that front, while it may be legal for a candidate to co-sponsor events in which NYCHA residents get free sneakers, as Weinstein did in early June. But the ethics do seem questionable.
Last but not least, in response to questions at last week’s debate from challenger Eliza Orlins regarding a news story showing that she had not registered as a Democrat until 2017, Weinstein took swipes at the reporter. She claimed that Sam Mellins of NY Focus had endangered her by disclosing her home address, and that Mellins had been “trolling” her on Twitter. In truth, the information has been available on the New York Times site since Weinstein and her husband purchased their $25.5 million apartment in 2012.
As Mellins tells the Indy, “there’s no possible definition of trolling that applies to my statements about her campaign online. I’ve just been posting my articles with descriptions of what I’ve found.”
A deep-pocketed candidate who is hostile to truthful reporting, eager to smear her enemies, and knows how to game the tax system? The parallel is obvious. Manhattan voters twice rejected Trump, and we’ll find out soon if the same fate awaits Weinstein.
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