On Wednesday night, Albany County District Attorney David Soares faced-off against challenger Lee Kindlon, and even though Kindlon admitted he voted for Soares in 2004 and 2008, the hopeful candidate was quick to point out that there were many reasons he eventually decided to run against Soares.
The debate was hosted by Spotlight Newspapers, the Colonie Chamber of Commerce, Capital Area Council Churches, League of Women Voters, and the Capital District Alliance for Universal Healthcare. The forum was highly anticipated by many, and at times had the decent crowd on the edge of their seats listening intently to the spirited back and forth.
Soares and Kindlon battled to the two minute buzzer over everything from juvenile justice reform to allegations of wasteful spending in office, and discussions over how to handle potential ethics and conflict of interest matters.
This is what was said from each at the podium in response to the question, "What would you do to reduce wasteful spending in the District Attorney's Office."
Kindlon said, "No more training in Marco Island, Florida, no more sending people away for boondoggles like that. We should probably really consider cutting back on meal budgets, I don't think it should be anything more than a Subway Meal Deal when you work late, sorry guys, who already work in the office."
To that Soares responded, "There is no wasteful spending in the Albany County D.A.'s Office. As a matter of fact, our discussions with the legislature historically have been (about) the underfunding of the Albany County D.A's Office."
Much of the forum was devoted to Albany County's problems with violent crime, and several questions were asked of each candidate wondering how they would work to reduce violent crimes, and increase public safety.
Kindlon's response to that question from the podium was, "We'd create something called a 'Rocket Docket Program.' See, right now in our criminal justice system, if you're charged with a crime, especially with a crime that involves a victim, those cases, they can drag on for months. Sometimes it takes up to a year to get that person into a trial, and to get that person away to a state prison. Imagine if we could cycle through fast enough, get to the point where that not in a year, we might get to their trial, but in a matter of months? Fast enough to take care of those victims, take care of those witnesses get to the point where we're actually putting people in prison in less than five months? This can be done using the 'Rocket Docket Program.'
To that point Soares said, "Mr. Kindlon talks about a 'Rocket Docket." Well, unless he's running for Judge, I don't know who else controls our docket. It's the judge that set the calendars, the judge that set trial the judge that sets hearings, and our office has an incredible record of convicting violent criminals."
After the forum, in a separate interview on the matter Soares continued, "Some of us who actually have a budget, and are already running the show are having a hard time seeing how any of the initiatives would ever start."
In a post-debate one-on-one Kindlon discussed Soares contention that the initiatives he was looking to install would not be cost effective by saying, "It's not about spending extra money, it's just about doing the job better. You know one of the things I always talk about is going to be in court more often, Mr. Soares never goes to court."
During the debate, Kindlon was also highly critical of the way Soares handled the Occupy Albany protestors, specifically denouncing the District Attorney's Decision not to prosecute those who had been arrested.
Kindlon said, "I never agreed with Mr. Soares decision to not prosecute these individuals."
Soares, however spent his two minutes outlining the many reasons he opted not to prosecute, including the protestors right to make their point in a public park peacefully.
After the debate was over, both candidates thought the forum had gone well.
Kindlon said, "What we need in the District Attorney's Office right now is better leadership, tighter controls, we need to start saving money. The office of the District Attorney is one of the only departments that seems to have no spending limit. The taxpayers want justice, but they also want to see their tax dollars spent wisely."
Soares said, "Of course, when you're an incumbent you don't have the luxury of opinion, you have the burden of proof. And so he can say what he wants, I don't believe he understands the function of the office or what we deal with in terms of staffing limitations."
One of the challenges each candidate faced was to quickly share 'their best quality,' with the audience.
Kindlon answered, "Humility," as his number one quality, while Soares chose "Patience and wisdom," as his best assets.
Then, at the bitter end of the debate, both men were asked to say one nice thing about their opponent.
Soares went on for more than a minute, touting Kindlon as "a gentleman, and a great father," while Kindlon echoed the comments about Soares being a great father, he also took some of the time allotted to that question to remind voters why he believed he was still the better choice.
The primary election is on September 13th.