Politics: A No-Lynne Situation

Feuds! Money! Endorsements! The race to replace D.A. Lynne Abraham is about everything but putting criminals behind bars

Evidence of the lingering enmity doesn’t exactly require a treasure hunt. Last June, Abraham labeled a probe of City Councilman Curtis Jones performed by Williams in his role as the city’s inspector general “poorly done” and predicated on “flawed reasoning.” (Jones had unseated one of Williams’s longtime political allies, Carol Ann Campbell, for a Council seat. Campbell died in November.) Now in campaign mode, Williams — who at the time accused Abraham of “taking a political potshot at me” — chooses his words about his former boss with surgical deftness, saying only, “I believe she probably thinks I shouldn’t have run against her.” (Abraham declined to comment for this story.)
Does it matter? The potential potency of an Abraham endorsement remains the subject of much debate. “I think that probably half this town thinks Lynne Abraham walks on water, probably 35 to 40 percent wishes Lynne Abraham would be under water, and there’s 10 percent that’s not sure,” says longtime city political consultant Larry Ceisler, who’s staying on the sidelines this campaign. “I mean, Lynne can be a very divisive, polarizing figure. But listen, if I was running, I would want her endorsement.”
That appears to be a popular sentiment among the rest of the men in the race. Ask any of them to offer a critique of Abraham’s tenure in office, and you get political gobbledygook: Turner talks about wanting to “build on what she started,” and says of lingering criticism that Abraham didn’t go after corruption in City Hall, “I can’t say I agree with that or disagree with that.” McCaffrey thinks Abraham did her best to leverage her relationship with the feds to pursue municipal corruption probes; McElhatton says, “I’m not sure I would say I disagree with certain decisions” of Abraham’s. All of which translates to: We all think she’s done a bang-up job. Unless she endorses my opponent, in which case she’s been a disaster.

DAN MCELHATTON HAS called for a series of D.A. debates, likely to be sleepy, sparsely attended affairs conducted in musty American Legion halls and fraying city churches. For while the candidates all bring quasi-different ideas about how to run the D.A.’s office — Williams wants to parcel prosecutors by geographic area; McElhatton wants parking vouchers for witnesses and victims; everybody has ideas on how to reorganize caseloads and combat the notorious “Stop snitchin’” mentality that results in so many slam-dunk cases getting tossed — all of them are basically city-connected lawyers who worked for the D.A.’s office at one time or another.