In the space of four days and two press conferences, the race for Ulster County district attorney revealed itself, if you look at it in the same light as I.
On Thursday, challenger Jon Sennett held a presser at his John Street HQ, in which he blasted incumbent Holley Carnright for not being as open as perhaps he should be in allowing oversight of confidential informant funds and not recusing himself from the prosecution of former KPD Detective Lt. Tim Matthews on charges of stealing thousands in public money. Sennett’s message was in keeping with his thesis on why voters should dump Carnright — Sennett has more zeal in prosecuting white-collar criminals and since he is not part of the “good ol’ boys” network, he will play no favorites and take down anyone found improperly suckling from the public teat.
On the other side of the weekend, Carnright held a Monday-morning conference to announce the indictments of dozens of the alleged end-users of the Sunoco food-stamp scam. Carnright’s message was in keeping with his thesis of why voters should re-elect him — he goes after drug-users, gangbangers and other malefactors and will play no favorites in taking down anyone found to be endangering public safety or using money given to them by the taxpayers for purposes other than which it was intended.
There are several observations to be made here, one of them being that while it is generally not hard to find someone who will give you food, for drugs, people much more often want cash. This explains the motive behind much of the food-stamp fraud. But I will be succinct and just say this DA’s race seems to boil down to which makes voters more angry — corruption or street crime. I’m not saying that Carnright won’t go after the former, but he really should have recused himself from the Matthews case, if for nothing more to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest. Now that Sennett has made such a big deal about it, Carnright can’t now without admitting his opponent was right. Whether Carnright changes his mind after he wins, if he wins, is an open question. Or maybe Carnright wants to nail Matthews himself to avenge the ex-cop’s alleged gross violation of trust. (The consensus in the back of our office is that Matthews will take a plea deal, serve some time, collect his guaranteed pension and be done with it.) That the jail probe brought absolutely no one to account for the massive cost overruns doesn’t really help Carnright, but on the other hand, public outrage over the wasted millions, if it ever really was there in the first place, is as gone as the summer breeze.