Wall Street Journal
Upd. Aug. 31, 2015 8:37 p.m.

Largest Police Union Backs Democrat in DA Race

Ex-congressman leads in fundraising on Staten Island; Republican says she isn’t concerned


New York City’s largest police union endorsed former U.S. Rep. Michael McMahon for Staten Island district attorney on Monday, a sign of gathering momentum behind the Democratic candidate in the city’s most conservative borough.

Mr. McMahon, a former city councilman who is now a partner at a law firm, secured the backing of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, a union of nearly 50,000 members.

With about two months to go before the Nov. 3 election, Mr. McMahon has picked up endorsements from several major law-enforcement groups and has raised more than twice as much money as his Republican opponent, former Manhattan prosecutor Joan Illuzzi.

The two are vying to replace former District Attorney Dan Donovan, a Republican who was elected to Congress in a special election in May.

Ms. Illuzzi said Monday she wasn’t concerned about campaign contributions or endorsements, saying voters were “overwhelmingly positive” when she spoke with them on the campaign trail.

“The unions have their political reasons for endorsing a certain candidate,” Ms. Illuzzi said. “These endorsements mean little to absolutely nothing about the way the election actually goes.”

A spokeswoman for Mr. McMahon’s campaign said in a statement that the campaign was “fueled by the enthusiasm and support of a wide cross-section of Staten Islanders.” In a statement, PBA President Patrick Lynch called Mr. McMahon “by far the best choice” for the job.

Ms. Illuzzi has been endorsed by the Port Authority Police Benevolent Association, the Retired Sergeants Association of the City of New York Police Department, and the New York City Detective Investigators’ Association, which represents police detectives who work in district attorneys’ offices. She was also endorsed by Mr. Donovan and former Mayor Rudy Giuliani, a Republican.

Mr. McMahon has the support of a broad array of law-enforcement unions, including the Uniformed Firefighters Association, the Uniformed Fire Officers Association, the NYPD Sergeants Benevolent Association and the New York State Court Officers Association.

The PBA endorsement is “a pretty big signal to the law-and-order voters on Staten Island that McMahon has the stamp of approval from the cops,” said Richard Flanagan, an associate professor of political science at the College of Staten Island.

Mr. McMahon’s name recognition on Staten Island, coupled with the backing of the borough’s Conservative Party, “signals to more conservative voters that McMahon can be trusted,” Mr. Flanagan said.

Mr. Flanagan said the PBA’s endorsement is also notable because Mr. McMahon shares party affiliation with Mayor Bill de Blasio, who is unpopular on the island, in part because of a perceived lack of support for police. Ms. Illuzzi’s inability to link her opponent to Mr. de Blasio has “probably been a major failing of the campaign,” Mr. Flanagan said.

Ms. Illuzzi, a 27-year veteran of the Manhattan district attorney’s office, defended her campaign and said she was running as a prosecutor, not a politician.

In 2015, Mr. McMahon raised $281,727, while Ms. Illuzzi raised $126,340, according to campaign-finance records.

Between Aug. 7 and Aug. 27, Mr. McMahon’s campaign brought in $81,762 in contributions, compared with $39,025 for Ms. Illuzzi’s campaign, according to filings released Monday. Mr. McMahon has also outspent Ms. Illuzzi, $133,247 compared with $55,410, the filings show.

While Staten Island tends to lean Republican in elections—it was the only borough GOP mayoral nominee Joe Lhota carried in the 2013 race—registered Democrats on the island outnumber Republicans 119,476 to 75,791, state records show.

The last Democratic district attorney on Staten Island was William Murphy, Mr. Donovan’s predecessor, who left office at the end of 2003.