District Attorney Race
DA candidate Eric Schiener touts experience as prosecutor
Having each conducted spirited and intensive campaigns, Eric Schiener and Steve Sessler, Livingston County’s two Republican candidates district attorney, will face off in the Sept. 13 primary election. Polls will be open between noon and 9 p.m. Both candidates spoke with The County News, describing their outreach and ballot strategies, and sharing thoughts about the responsibilities of the office they seek. This is the first of two stories.
Eric Schiener’s campaign is making extensive use of social media while by no means discounting traditional door-to-door visits. Armed with the list of all registered Republican voters in Livingston County, Schiener has set the formidable objective of paying personal visits to as many as possible.
Schiener and his supporters have additionally made door-to-door visits seeking petition signatures for Conservative Party and for an independent Law & Justice Party ballot appearance, he reported.
The Conservative endorsement would only have required a relatively small number of signatures from registered Conservatives. However, Schiener’s appearance on that line has been usurped by Sessler, who has secured the support of Livingston County acting Conservative Party Chair Jason McGuire and of state party leaders based in Brooklyn.
Schiener had been hoping for a Conservative primary election contest mirroring the Republican primary contest. However, the lack of an organized Conservative party in Livingston County has placed the decision with party leaders alone, he said.
“But I don’t see my door-to-door conservative campaign as a wasted effort one bit,” Schiener emphasized. “I reached out to almost 100 families and got signatures from 50-or-so.”
Schiener concludes the Conservative line might be rightfully his.
“When it comes to criminal justice there is no more conservative person than myself,” he said. “I’m hard on repeat offenders. I’m hard on the criminals who go after vulnerable citizens, children and the elderly. I have a reputation for being harsh and tough and only too willing to take things to grand jury and trial.”
Schiener still hopes to appear on a second ballot line on Sept. 13. It would be the independent ‘Law & Justice Party,’ a Republican alternative line which first saw the light of day in 2005. Almost 1,000 petition signatures are necessary to secure the line, although qualified signers can be of any party affiliation, so long as they had not already signed an earlier petition for district attorney on the primary ballot. Schiener’s Law & Justice petition was filed with the Board of Elections on the Aug. 21 deadline.
The Law & Justice petition has come up against a challenge from Sessler’s camp. Pending resolution of that issue, Schiener’s appearance on a ‘Law & Justice ‘ line on Sept. 13 remains uncertain.
Schiener sees his door-to-door contacts and signature support as a major component of his outreach. They included 1,700 signatures secured for him by the Livingston County Republican Committee workers; the 50 Conservative signatures, and another 1,147 signatures for the Law & Justice ballot line secured by Schiener and his supporters from persons of various political persuasion.
“I was out meeting people, reaching across the aisles to other political party members. Here at the end of the road, I now have signatures from nearly 3,000 registered voters,” Schiener reported. “That surpasses the signatures for the other two candidates combined.”
Schiener answers critics who say his Law & Justice party line is a last ditch effort to secure his position on the general election ballot in November if he loses the primary.
“That couldn’t be further from the truth,” he stated. “I’m a loyal Republican Party member and I’ll support whoever earns the nomination [in the primary election].”
“I already said that back in June,” Schiener reasserted. “If I did not receive the designation from the core workers of the party, I was done.”
Schiener in fact received overwhelming support from the county committee.
Schiener believes it is a wise strategy for the Republican candidate, whoever he may be, to appear on a second line in November, if only because his Democratic opponent, Greg McCaffrey, has secured a second line with the Independence Party. If Schiener’s Law & Justice Party survives Sessler’s challenge and Schiener wins the primary, his Law & Justice line will accrue to the November ballot.
In other dimensions of his campaign, Schiener’s weekends have been jam-packed with visits to the county’s numerous festivals and special summer events.
“These festivals and parades are things that my family and I would have done anyway,” Schiener said. “We’ve been going to them for years, and my wife and I have been volunteering in information booths for years.”
Last Saturday, he assisted the volunteer crew reconstructing the stone wall at the Wadsworth Homestead, as the scratches on his hand attested.
Schiener has also been distributing campaign goods, most notably 300 t-shirts, the last of which was given out on Sunday at the Livingston County Republican picnic at Lorenz Park.
Schiener and his wife have been on Facebook almost since it began. He also has a professional dimension to his web presence, having hired an Avon-based designer to build his pages, but the links to his Twitter and Facebook sites bring you personalized tidbits following Schiener’s day-to-day activities as both a family man and a candidate.
Schiener envisions social media playing an ongoing and new role after the election, as a source of information for what is happening in the district attorney’s office.
“As district attorney, I will want to have a good outreach to the community, and the social media will be playing a huge role,” he promises. Judges, law enforcement personnel, victims and the press should find the information of interest and value, Schiener predicts.
For example, using the future D.A. website, a police officer will be able to discover, “What happened to that guy I arrested?”
In the days and hours just prior to the primary election, Schiener is anticipating solid support from the same Republican Committee workers who collected his 1,700 petition signatures, who will be calling registered Republicans, urging them to get out and vote and to support the county committee’s preferences.
When speaking with voters, Schiener treats the conversation as a job interview. He emphasizes his experience of 12 years in the Livingston County district attorney’s office of which 6 years were as first assistant, prosecuting thousands of criminal cases including the conservative estimate of about 1,200 felony cases.
“I never dabbled in criminal law or went off and did a private practice. Prosecuting criminals is what I do.”.
“I wasn’t a flashy guy,” Schiener continued. “I wasn’t in that office to become popular. I took the cases that came down the pike and tried them the best I could. It certainly wasn’t my intention to use them as a stepping stone for political office. My goal all along is to continue in the job I’m best trained in and equipped to do.”
Schiener has gone on record as a strong advocate for using DNA evidence and keeping DNA registries.
On the subject of politics after the election, Schiener asserts there can be none. He suggests that prosecutors are an apolitical entity unto themselves, free of any political party ties or commitments.
Indeed, except for making monetary donations, Schiener never has had — and as ADA would not have been allowed to have — connection with the Republican Party as a party worker or any other role.
“Tom Moran and I never brought political questions into our decision making process. You can’t be worried about the party of the victim or of the defendant,” he insists.