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Doorley fends off Curry Mitchell in DA's race

Nov 5, 2019

Monroe County District Attorney Sandra Doorley celebrates her victory Tuesday night at Republican headquarters.
Credit Max Schulte / WXXI News

This year’s Monroe County district attorney race smoldered through August and September, but suddenly turned into a blaze last month.

The hard-fought contest saw Republican incumbent Sandra Doorley challenged by Democrat Shani Curry Mitchell, who served under her as a prosecutor for more than five years. Doorley will hang on to the job, though, after pulling in 56% of the vote.

The race started with the candidates offering different visions for the office.

Curry Mitchell offered a reform agenda, favoring new or ramped-up diversion, rehabilitation, and restorative justice programs. She also said that prosecutors in the District Attorney’s Office should be allowed to use their substantial discretion to help steer defendants into services or programs that would address the underlying causes of their offenses.

Doorley cast herself as a pragmatist, a prosecutor who’s tough on defendants who present a threat to the public and compassionate with defendants who struggle with mental health problems or addiction. She said her office is already heavily using diversion programs to help people address the problems that caused them to offend.

But the race happened against bigger, broader conversations around justice and mass incarceration. Doorley became the target of a political action committee funded by billionaire philanthropist and liberal political benefactor George Soros. The PAC spent more than $800,000 on television and digital ad campaign criticizing Doorley’s policies and record.

By comparison, the Doorley campaign had spent $141,276 as of the latest filing with the state Board of Elections and the Curry Mitchell campaign had spent $66,449.

The Doorley campaign raised funds off the ad. And Monroe County Republican Chair William Napier filed a complaint with the state Board of Elections alleging that the ad broke campaign finance laws not because of its content, but because Curry Mitchell’s former campaign manager had recently worked for the firm that produced the ad for PAC.

Jeremy Moule is CITY's news editor. He can be reached at jmoule@rochester-citynews.com.