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The Old Man and the She


Months later, Castleman is cautious in what he chooses to say about Morgenthau. “After nearly 30 years of loyal service and given the promises that were made to me,” he writes, “it was disappointing and painful when the Boss changed his mind, especially since, to this day, I don’t understand his reasoning. I leave it to others to determine whether he made the right choice or not.”

That Woman now works rooms she couldn’t get into four years ago. Recently, Snyder did a pep talk and round of cheek-pecking at the McManus Democrats, the political club in Hell’s Kitchen that for decades has religiously supported Morgenthau and this year made a treasonous endorsement of Snyder. When she got there, president James McManus was holding court in a supply closet that featured, among other mementos, a crumpled pack of Lucky Strikes and an old blue bathrobe.

“To me, all the candidates are the same,” McManus says. “You have to look at the politics. She’s running against two guys. In Manhattan. She can’t lose.”

Snyder appears more at ease. “Last time, I was absolutely shocked by the hostility with which my running was greeted,” she says, speaking in sentences that are painfully perfect on the grammar. (Her dad was a French Enlightenment scholar.) Now, without Morgenthau in the race, it feels like there is one. “He would almost never go on the same stage with me,” she says. “So, you know this is a very different experience.”

Her campaign hasn’t been all smooth. In May, she rolled out an endorsement by Judge Judy—a legal authority the other boys pounced on, along with Snyder’s 180 on the death penalty: She’s now against. In early June, nervous about Aborn and his surge in endorsements, Snyder shook up her campaign team and hired the same people Morgenthau had used (and whom she had once turned down) to rescue his 2005 operation, Isay’s Knickerbocker.

To some, she’s been a stubborn client. “She’s a judge—so that’s what she does, sits in judgment,” one source close to the campaign says. Her advisers have also been futzing with her presentation to engender her to Jewish voters, the source says. Mention her “Jewish” parents? Campaign on the Lower East? Ditch the goyish-blonde look and return to her natural brunette roots? “They don’t know she is a Jewish woman. Aborn is more Jewish than she is. He’s only half-Jewish. She is all Jew!”

But Snyder won’t go there. “I’m Jewish,” she says. “But one’s religious beliefs are personal.”

Above all, what Snyder does have going for her is in the guts department. She can always change tunes and boast that she was willing to take on the Boss. The other two checked with him first.

“She has balls—that’s actually part of our message,” says Ken Frydman, one adviser.

Leaving the McManus club, Snyder rides the elevator with member Fannie Cole, an 86-year-old retired teacher. Fannie is wearing a shawl and talking about how she’s traveled around the world eight times on cruise ships. The talk shifts to the D.A.’s race and which candidate Fannie, who has voted in every election since FDR, thinks has a shot.

“The only name that rings to me is Cyrus Vance,” Fannie says.

Snyder objects. “But I’ve been in the criminal-justice system in New York for the last 35 years!”

“What?” Fannie says. “Did you start when you were 10?”

In his corner office at Morvillo, Vance turns off the classical music and gives an office tour. He points to a small photo of his old man, at Yale, that he keeps on top of a Jeffersonesque standing desk. One irony of Vance’s campaign is that Vance left New York to escape the shadow of one legal titan (his father) only to step into the shadow of another (Morgenthau). Vance says any “subconscious link” is a stretch.

“I’m not trying to be Bob Morgenthau,” he says. “I’m not trying to mimic Bob Morgenthau. I’m going to put my own stamp on the office.”

Vance has tortoiseshell glasses, plays mandolin, and gravitates toward the rumpled-lawyer look. He plunges into a leather armchair and kicks an ankle boot upon a coffee table. Nearby is book of arty-looking photographs, Couples (not exactly Gould’s Penal Code Handbook). He talks about the “validators” supporting him, like Robert Fiske, Michael Cherkasky, and Richard Girgenti. But who knows who those lawyers are? (No surprise, most worked for Morgenthau.) His campaign has also been burning through donations. During the last filing period, Vance spent nearly every dollar he raised. Some think he has too many consultants and lawyers advising him. Some think he talks too much to Morgenthau, who calls all the time.

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