In Brooklyn’s District Attorney Race, the Focus Isn’t on Prosecuting Crime

Because of that decision, Mr. Gonzalez, a career prosecutor with little political experience, has emerged as the front-runner and his opponents’ chief target. When, for instance, the candidates were given a chance at the debate to directly question one of their competitors, all of Mr. Gonzalez’s challengers confronted him.

Echoing a complaint she has made before, Ama Dwimoh, a former Brooklyn prosecutor who now works for Eric Adams, the Brooklyn borough president, went after Mr. Gonzalez on the issue of wrongful convictions. Ms. Dwimoh claimed that on the 23 occasions when the district attorney’s office decided that defendants had been sent improperly to prison, no one was ever held accountable. Even though most of those cases were overturned before Mr. Gonzalez was in charge, Ms. Dwimoh called again for an independent panel to review whether prosecutors who worked on them should be punished.

It is one of the odder aspects of the race that five of its candidates — Mr. Gonzalez, Ms. Dwimoh, Marc Fliedner, Anne Swern and Patricia Gatling — all worked together in the Brooklyn district attorney’s office, mostly under Charles J. Hynes, who preceded Mr. Thompson. (A sixth candidate, Vincent Gentile, a city councilman from Brooklyn, once served as a prosecutor in Queens.) Their interlocking professional connections have at times given the campaign an ambience of sibling rivalry.

Ms. Swern, for example, has attacked Mr. Gonzalez for failing to follow through on a vow to reform bail, noting that when she herself ran the criminal courts section of the district attorney’s office, most defendants were released without bail. And Mr. Fliedner is perhaps best known for having prosecuted the former police officer Peter Liang, who fatally shot a man three years ago in a public housing stairwell. He then quit his job in part because of an argument with Mr. Thompson and Mr. Gonzalez, who, against his recommendation, decided Mr. Liang should not be sentenced to prison.

Although the candidates have received different endorsements — Mr. Gonzalez has the backing of Brooklyn’s congressional delegation and Mr. Fliedner the support of Our Revolution, a group connected to Senator Bernie Sanders — their résumés and platforms are remarkably similar. And in the absence of any deep or meaningful distinctions, many of them have tried to attract attention by pushing the boundaries of what a prosecutor can do.

On Tuesday morning, before the debate, each of…

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