Brooklyn’s controversial District Attorney failed to win reelection on September 10, despite support from nearly all of Orthodox Brooklyn’s political leaders.
Charles Hynes, who has served as District Attorney since 1989, lost to challenger Kenneth Thompson by a wide margin. Hynes had been under fire for extending special treatment to Orthodox sex abusers and a series of questionable prosecutions.
Hynes was backed in his reelection effort by Councilman David Greenfield, who represents Orthodox communities in the Brooklyn neighborhoods Midwood and Boro Park, and by both Satmar Hasidic sects, among others. Thompson’s only prominent supporter in Orthodox Brooklyn was Assemblyman Dov Hikind, who also represents Boro Park and Midwood.
Hynes campaign spokesman George Arzt said that Hynes had done well in the ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods of Williamsburg and Boro Park, but that turnout may have been low due to the timing of the Jewish High Holy Days.
Thompson received 55.4% of the overall vote in Brooklyn; Hynes 44.6%.
Hikind told the Forward he had not expected to win a majority of Orthodox support for Thompson. “All I had to do was give [Thompson] a certain percentage in the Jewish community,” Hikind said. “That’s all we needed.”
The Forward reported in April 2012 that Hynes’s office had refused to release the names of Orthodox Jews convicted of or charged with sex abuse because of the “unique” nature of the community.
In endorsing Hynes, Greenfield alleged that Thompson had threatened to “target the Jewish community” if elected district attorney. A New York Times story refuted that claim, saying that Thompson had simply criticized the withholding of the names of Orthodox sex abuse defendants.
Greenfield and Hikind fought bitterly over the charges, with Hikind accusing Greenfield of “spreading disgusting lies.”
Thompson’s victory amounted to a rare feat. According to ProPublica, no incumbent district attorney in Brooklyn has been voted out of office since 1911.
Josh Nathan-Kazis is a staff writer for the Forward. He covers charities and politics, and writes investigations and longform.