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Former Binghamton Mayor Matt Ryan says he'd work to address root causes of crime as DA

Democratic candidate Matt Ryan, who served two terms as Mayor of Binghamton, is running aginst Republican Paul Battisti.
Matt Ryan for DA campaign
Democratic candidate Matt Ryan, who served two terms as mayor of Binghamton, is running against Republican Paul Battisti.

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

Both candidates discussed their candidacy and some policy views with WSKG ahead of Election Day. We heard from Ryan's opponent, Republican Paul Battisti, on Friday, Nov. 3.

Ryan served as Binghamton’s mayor from 2006 to 2013. Before that, he worked as a public defender for 15 years. He said his goal as district attorney would be to vigorously prosecute crime while also focusing on the root causes.

“We can solve this problem in Broome County if we don't look at just the traditional ways of handling [crime],” Ryan said. “Once you do something violent, you're going to be prosecuted. My whole thing is, what are you doing in the first place to prevent that crime from happening?”

Ryan said he would create new roles in the district attorney’s office that focus on applying for grant funding and developing new initiatives, such as gang prevention programs and support for young people and people with substance use disorders.

“It's about making our communities healthier, having a dialogue with our communities to show them that we care about them, not just to prosecute their sons and daughters,” Ryan said. “And if we don't gain that trust, we're lost, and we will never make a difference.”

Neither candidate running for the position has experience working as a district attorney, and both have worked as defense attorneys. But Ryan said his experience as mayor gives him the management and collaborative skills a district attorney needs.

Ryan also said because he’s been working pro bono for the past ten years, he would have fewer conflicts of interest as a prosecutor than his opponent. He said Paul Battisti, a private practice defense attorney, would have to recuse himself from cases as district attorney, forcing the county to hire special prosecutors.

“If Mr. Battisti was to get elected, every client that he represents now would have to be farmed out at $200 an hour by the county. He couldn't prosecute one of his clients,” Ryan said.

Ryan also took aim at his opponent’s campaign during the Republican primary season, earlier this year. Battisti defeated the current District Attorney Mike 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.

Ryan said the contentious nature of that primary election damaged morale in the DA’s office and has led to even more short-staffing issues. Ryan said he would work to boost morale, and both recruit and retain staff.

“The first year of this office is going to be one of the most challenging things that a prosecutor and Broome County has ever gone through,” Ryan said. “And don't you want somebody who has some idea of how to run an organization?”

Some critics of Ryan say he doesn’t have enough support from local law enforcement, which they say would be an obstacle for a DA. But Ryan said he can work with law enforcement groups while remaining independent. He added that by building trust in the community, he would make law enforcement’s job easier as well.

“If you do your job properly, you will never have a problem from me,” Ryan said. “And every policeman that worked for me in the city of Binghamton knows that. If you don't do your job properly, if you bend the trust, you will not like me.”

Ryan said he would work to collaborate with the current assistant district attorneys in the office, and even with Korchak if he’d like to stay involved in the office.

Ryan will appear on the Working Families and Democratic party lines. Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 7.

An interview with Ryan's opponent, Republican Paul Battisti, aired on Friday, Nov. 3.