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Candidates face off

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CNY/NNY/S. Tier: Candidates face off
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The race for Cortland County District Attorney is heating up. The candidates met Tuesday for a final forum before the vote. Our Tamara Lindstrom has more.


CORTLAND COUNTY, N.Y. -- The two lawyers are no strangers to an impassioned argument, but on Tuesday it was voters and not a jury the candidates for Cortland County District Attorney were looking to win over. The candidates met in a final forum at SUNY Cortland.

Democrat Mark Suben has held the office for the past four years.

"I'm a professional prosecutor of eleven years experience. I'm highly motivated to use my skills as a prosecutor to protect my home community. That's Cortland. And that includes this campus," Suben said. "I have won major cases that needed to be won on trial and on appeal."

He's facing a challenge from Republican defense attorney Keith Dayton.

"I'm sad at where Cortland is now," Dayton said. "I'm disappointed that when I go out campaigning and I talk to residents of the city of Cortland and they say things like we used to have a safe neighborhood. Now I lock my doors. Now I don't go out at night."

The audience asked questions on subjects ranging from cracking down on meth labs to what the candidates can do for students. But the community forum quickly turned to a heated debate, with much of the time spent arguing over specific cases.

"I'm wondering why Mr. Suben didn't try the last homicide in Cortland himself," Dayton said. "Rather, he handed it off to an assistant district attorney who's never tried a felony case before. And as a result, it resulted in an acquittal."

"I run the office the best way I know how," Suben said. "When a case requires me to try it, I try it. And I'm not going to try to answer to Mr. Dayton about who I assign to prosecute cases. I will say that the assistant who beat him last week was very good indeed. And if that's an example of how I hire and how I train, I'll stand with that."

Dayton accused the D.A. of mishandling cases and going easy on criminals, while Suben said his challenger lacks the qualifications needed to get the job done. An argument that will soon be left to the voters.

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