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In race for Broome County DA, Battisti says public safety on the ballot

Republican Defense attorney Paul Battisti is running against former Binghamton Mayor Matt Ryan, a Democrat.
Phoebe Taylor-Vuolo
Republican defense attorney Paul Battisti is running against former Binghamton Mayor Matt Ryan, a Democrat.

Broome County residents will head to the polls Tuesday, Nov. 7 to select a new district attorney. Republican defense attorney Paul Battisti is running against former Binghamton Mayor Matt Ryan, a Democrat.

Both candidates discussed their candidacy and some policy views with WSKG ahead of Election Day. We'll hear from Battisti’s opponent, Democrat Matt Ryan, on Monday, Nov. 6.

Neither candidate running for the position has experience working as a district attorney. Paul Battisti has worked as a private practice defense attorney for about 20 years. He said his experience will give him an advantage in prosecuting cases.

“The rules of evidence, regardless of what side of the aisle you are on, are identically the same,” Battisti said. “Who better to know what a defense attorney is going to do than somebody who has done it for 20 years?”

Battisti said bail reform and new discovery laws, which require prosecutors to disclose their evidence to the defense earlier in case proceedings, have resulted in the dismissal of important cases.

“Not only is it impacting Broome County, it's impacting counties throughout the state,” Battisti said. “And if we don't know how to handle it, if we don't have a plan, it's only going to get worse.”

Battisti said the district attorney’s office is facing an increase in workload from these laws, as well as a high turnover rate. He said he would work to offer better training and professional support for assistant district attorneys. He would also look into higher salaries for DA staff.

“People are leaving to go out and make that higher wage. So we must pay the assistant district attorneys more. We must have parity with other offices here that are competing for these very qualified attorneys.”

Battisti said Broome County residents will vote based on public safety on Election Day. He added, an important aspect of community safety is addressing the overdose crisis and mental health needs in the county.

Battisti has worked on the Broome Drug Treatment Court team and said if elected, he would set up an opioid treatment court or mental health court in the county. Those courts are meant to divert people with mental health or substance use disorders away from the criminal justice system and into treatment.

“It's programs like this that keep people out of jail that don't belong in jail, to get the rehabilitation they need,” Battisti said. “So they don't become part of that vicious cycle.”

Battisti has received endorsements from multiple law enforcement organizations, including the Police Benevolent Association of New York State, Sheriff Fred Akshar and the Binghamton Police Benevolent Association.

Some opponents of Battisti have argued his relationship with local law enforcement could influence his ability to prosecute misconduct or corruption in those departments.

But Battisti said collaboration with law enforcement groups is part of the DA’s job.

“I think it defies logic to think that a district attorney should not have a good working relationship with the men and women of law enforcement,” he said.

Battisti beat out current Broome County District Attorney Michael Korchak in the Republican primary in June. Korchak will not run on a third-party line and has not endorsed either candidate in the race.

Battisti will appear on both the Republican and Conservative party lines.

Early voting runs through November 5, and Election Day is on November 7.

An interview with Battisti’s opponent, Democrat Matt Ryan, will air on Monday, Nov. 6.