Alvin Bragg Set to Become Manhattan’s First Black District Attorney

Photo: Carlo Allegri/REUTERS

Alvin Bragg is set to become the first Black district attorney of Manhattan following his victory in the Democratic primary over Tali Farhadian Weinstein, who sank millions of dollars of her personal fortune into the race, and a slew of progressive criminal justice reformers. Weinstein conceded Friday after trailing Bragg by more than 7,000 votes following last week’s election.

Bragg, 47, is virtually certain to win the general election in November and replace Cyrus Vance, whose office is prosecuting the Trump Organization and investigating the former president.

A Harlem native, Bragg relied heavily on his personal experiences throughout the campaign to explain why, as a prosecutor, he was committed to progressive criminal justice reform. He described being held at gunpoint for the first time when he was six years old. “Before I was 21 I had a gun pointed at me six times, three by NYPD officers during unconstitutional stops,” Bragg said at a recent debate. He credited those experiences as the reason he became an attorney.

Though it did not garner the same attention as the mayoral race, the Manhattan DA’s race was every bit as contentious. Bragg emerged as a favorite thanks to a late endorsement from Color of Change, an organization that has successfully backed the campaigns of progressive prosecutors across the country. The endorsement was coupled with a $1 million donation to Bragg’s campaign by the organization’s PAC.

That helped Bragg make up for some of the spending difference with Farhadian Weinstein, who pushed to the front of the field thanks to the millions she raised from Wall Street, where her husband manages a successful hedge fund, and her own personal contribution of $8.2 million. A significant chunk of that money was spent on ads and mailers that suggested Bragg and another candidate, Dan Quart, would be bad for survivors of domestic abuse and “would put women and families at risk of further abuse.” Bragg said the advertisements and mailers were “playing on racial overtones” and misleading voters.

Bragg, 47, will take over the second-largest district attorney’s office in the country, a position occupied by only two people, Vance and the late Robert Morgenthau, since 1975. He will oversee some of the highest-profile cases in the country, chief among them the probe into the Trump Organization that could see the office decide a historic first: whether to charge a former president with a crime.

During the race, candidates jockeyed over the degrees to which they would prosecute — or decline to prosecute — certain low-level offenses. Bragg staked out a position as a reformer with prosecutorial experience who would not resort to the extreme measures that other candidates promoted. While multiple candidates said they would cut the office’s $169 million budget in half by the end of a first term, Bragg would not commit to cutting the office’s budget at all. Instead, he said he would shift the office’s focus away from low-level cases to bigger, structural cases.

Still, under Bragg, the Manhattan DA’s office will become the latest workshop for major criminal-justice reform. Nearly 80 percent of the cases Vance’s office prosecuted in 2019 were misdemeanors and the types of low-level offenses that almost always end in plea deals. Bragg has committed to reducing that caseload by declining to prosecute offenses like fare evasion, marijuana misdemeanors, and resisting arrest for noncriminal offenses. Bragg said he intended to focus on gun crime, corruption, and expanding alternatives to incarceration. He plans to disband the sex-crimes unit and build a new one that focuses on survivors’ experiences. Bragg supports closing the jail on Rikers Island, has committed to not seek life sentences, and does not support the use of the NYPD’s gang database, which Human Rights Watch has called “inherently unreliable” and discriminatory.

A graduate of Harvard Law School, Bragg worked as a civil-rights attorney before becoming a prosecutor. He previously served as a federal prosecutor in the Southern District of New York under Preet Bharara, who vouched for him in television ads. At the state attorney general’s office, Bragg oversaw investigations into police misconduct and successfully sued the Trump Foundation for illegally using campaign funds. Bragg is a visiting professor at New York Law School and co-director of the school’s Racial Justice Project. He is currently representing Gwen Carr, the mother of Eric Garner, in a lawsuit against Mayor de Blasio.

Alvin Bragg Set to Become Manhattan’s First Black D.A.