The race for Livingston County District Attorney is starting to take form, as candidates will be confirmed following the Republican Party primary this Thursday Sept. 13.
Candidate Eric Shiener, R-N.Y., has been an assistant DA for the county since Nov. 1999. In 2006 former DA Tom Moran, R-N.Y., selected Shiener to be his first assistant. Upon Moran’s selection to serve on the New York State Supreme Court this May, the Livingston County DA chair became vacant, a position Shiener then filled as acting DA.
As a result of the controversial Hatch Act of 1939, Shiener was required to resign from his position as acting DA in order to campaign for the seat permanently. The Hatch Act works to enforce political neutrality among civil servants, thus prohibiting them from holding public office or participating in political campaigns.
Meanwhile, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, D-N.Y., appointed current Livingston County DA Greg McCaffrey, D-N.Y., in Shiener’s place, while conservative-endorsed candidate Steve Sessler, R-N.Y., is running for the Republican line against Shiener.
“I’ve said all along if I didn’t win the majority of the town and county committee members that I wasn’t going forward,” said Shiener. “They are the backbone of the party.” According to Shiener, the Republican County Committee overwhelmingly endorsed him as the Republican candidate in a 92 to 9 vote.
Sessler, however, stated in a phone interview, “The selection of a candidate under election law is by the voters.”
Sessler will be on the ballot in November regardless of the results of the Republican primary, as he has solidified the conservative line ballot. Eric Shiener, however, needs to win the Republican primary to secure a place on the ballot.
“I suspect that [Sessler] likes the sound of being DA, but I don’t know that he has the first clue about how to be the DA,” said Shiener.
Sessler is a former U.S. Marine Corps prosecutor and judge advocate, and he served as an attorney for the New Hampshire Division for Children, Youth and Families. After moving to Livingston County in 1995, he began a general practice until 2002 and has since served as a Livonia town justice.
According to Sessler, “the Marine Corps and 10 years as a judge” separates him from the other candidates, “plus a longer time in and around the justice system … to develop the judgment to do this job.”
“I’m not resting on past success,” said Shiener. “There is room for improvement and you should never stop trying to improve the way these offices run. That includes better education and outreach, trying to improve relations between the campus and the community.”
Greg McCaffrey, on the other hand, said he is aware the odds are against him. He’s a Democrat running in an overwhelmingly Republican county. He said he remains, however, steadfast and confident in his campaign and experience.
McCaffrey served as Monroe County Assistant DA from 2002 until 2006, at which time he became an attorney at Jones & Skivington on Main Street in Geneseo. According to McCaffrey, he has personally handled an annual misdemeanor caseload that surpasses the collective annual caseload of the Livingston County DA’s office.
“The DA is not about party, it’s about person,” he said. “Nonpartisanship matters as a DA … I’m not the Democrat District Attorney, I’m Livingston County District Attorney.”