Alvin Bragg announces Democratic primary campaign against Manhattan DA Cy Vance
NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
By ANNA SANDERS | NEW YORK DAILY NEWS | JUN 18, 2019 | 4:00 AM
Alvin Bragg can’t forget the first time police pointed a gun at him — the moment replays in his head when asked why he’s running for Manhattan district attorney.
“That was the first time I felt my life was in jeopardy by people who are supposed to protect me,” Bragg said.
On Tuesday, Bragg becomes the first declared candidate against incumbent Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance Jr. in the 2021 Democratic primary. A former state chief deputy attorney general, Bragg will announce his candidacy in a video slamming the “two standards of justice” in the borough — “one for the rich and powerful and connected, and another for everyone else.”
Bragg, 45, told the Daily News he’s running because he’s personally experienced the justice gap as a black man and resident of Central Harlem for nearly his whole life.
Back when he was a junior at Trinity School — the first time cops frisked him under gunpoint — a group of plainclothes cops pulled up when he was walking to a bodega. His friend instinctively started to run when they pointed their weapons at them.
“I thought if he keeps on running he’s going to get shot and we’re going to both die,” Bragg recalled. “Fortunately he stopped.”
The cop who frisked him noticed he was wearing a letterman jacket for Trinity, where he was a basketball player, and “started talking to me in a very friendly way.”
“I’ve been stopped and frisked more time than I can count -- three horrific times at gunpoint for doing nothing,” he said.
Once when he was home for college, Bragg and his friends were frisked at gunpoint again by dozens of cops who claimed they stabbed someone in Central Park. Bragg said they were playing basketball and had ridden in a cab with too many people.
“I tried to explain what these experiences are like to the officers and federal agents I went on to work with,” Bragg said. “Those experiences stay with me. Stop and frisk is done…but the racial disparities persist.”
Bragg vowed to take an aggressive approach to reversing mass incarceration, conduct transparent investigations of police misconduct and overhaul the DA’s sex-crimes unit if elected.
“We have a criminal justice system that’s too big and it’s not designed with a focus on keeping us safe,” said Bragg, who still lives in Harlem with his wife and two kids. “We need to right-size that system and also infuse it with human dignity that treats people as whole people and doesn’t see them as one isolated act.”
Vance won a third term in an uncontested 2017 election with 67%. But write-in candidates got roughly 7% of the vote after Vance came under fire for declining to prosecute cases against Harvey Weinstein and President Trump’s kids.
Bragg said he’s announcing his campaign two years ahead of the June 2021 primary to give himself a leg up on fundraising. He plans on rejecting corporate donations as well as any contributions from attorneys who have business with the DA’s office.
“I want to do a block to block person to person grassroots campaign,” he said. “We’re not going to be unduly influenced by anyone.”
At the state AG’s office, Bragg oversaw the Criminal Justice and Social Justice Divisions. During his tenure, the social justice division brought lawsuits against the Donald J. Trump Foundation, Weinstein and The Weinstein Company and even the feds over a citizenship question on the census.
Bragg left the AG’s office in December, and was previously the executive deputy AG for social justice. He’s currently a professor at New York Law School and a co-chair of the school’s Racial Justice Project. Bragg has also served as assistant U.S. Attorney in the Southern District of New York.
Vance campaign spokeswoman Anna Durrett said the DA “is focused on continuing to make New York City’s justice system fairer, more efficient, and more effective for all New Yorkers.”
“From ending the criminal prosecution of tens of thousands of low-level offenses and successfully reducing gang and gun violence, to building Manhattan’s Family Justice Center for victims of domestic violence and investing hundreds of millions of financial crime forfeiture dollars into Manhattan communities to strengthen families and prevent crime, DA Vance is continuing his work to reduce crime to historic lows, while also moving our criminal justice system forward,” Durrett said.
Bragg and Vance are the only candidates with state committees set up so far. But Democratic Assemblyman Dan Quart is also expected to throw his hat into the ring.