The toughest choice for any voter is the choice between good candidates. In the Erie County district attorney race, that's exactly the challenge.
Both Frank A. Sedita III and Diane M. LaVallee are experienced prosecutors who can do this job. This campaign has centered more on matters of politics than on substance, unfortunately, but each candidate does bring a record of achievement and a solid set of skills to this race.
Sedita's experience is more directly centered on the job he now seeks, and his record is heavily steeped in the matters a new Erie County district attorney will handle. While we admire LaVallee's intelligent and articulate approach to legal matters, Sedita's direct experience and his superior skills in working with local law enforcement agencies give him an edge. We recommend a vote for Sedita.
For the past 20 years, he has worked in the district attorney's office. Now deputy DA, he is very much involved in courtroom work and wants the senior attorneys in that office to share the caseload, not just administer the work. His tenures as chief of the white-collar crime and homicide bureaus should serve him well as critically important experience for the top job.
High-profile questions of guilt and innocence this year offered Western New Yorkers stark evidence of the role district attorneys play within the justice system. Issues of prosecution and exoneration were in the headlines, and so was the role of the district attorney. Sedita acquitted himself exceptionally well as the courtroom face of the DA's office during these cases, playing key roles in the Altemio C. Sanchez "Bike Path Killer" case and the exoneration of Anthony Capozzi and Lynn DeJac, ordering the DNA tests that freed them.
LaVallee has 25 years of courtroom and administrative experience, serving in both the Erie County and Orleans County district attorneys' offices, with several years with the state attorney general's office in between. She was first assistant DA in Orleans County, and in her early years in Erie County, she headed the consumer fraud and assault, abuse and rape units.
Like Sedita, LaVallee has handled high-profile cases and, during her time with the state attorney general, helped in death penalty and complicated murder cases statewide. She was a founding member of the Child Advocacy Center, and currently works as deputy director of the upstate special investigations unit for the state tax department.
Both candidates have been honored by law enforcement and legal organizations as skilled prosecutors, with Sedita winning a "top prosecutor of the year" award from the New York State District Attorneys Association in 2006. Sedita has widespread endorsements from police organizations, including both the Buffalo and Erie County police unions.
Sedita's major problem in this campaign has been his role as a key aide to resigning District Attorney Frank Clark, whose popularity has plummeted. LaVallee has sought to capitalize on that connection, and on the propriety of campaign contributions made by assistant DAs. But Sedita has clearly distanced himself from Clark's administrative style, and his extensive experience within the office is the best possible preparation for the work of heading that office.
Both are able candidates, but we give the edge to Sedita in making our endorsement.