Vance made the long-awaited announcement in a note to his employees early Friday, just weeks before the application deadline. Many of the candidates calling for his replacement are seeking, with few exceptions, to fundamentally reshape the situation.
Vance, the scion of one of Manhattan’s most famous liberal families, is one of only four people elected to attorney for the Manhattan district in nearly 80 years. He took office in 2010 and headed the office for ten years, as the number of crimes decreased and attitudes toward the criminal justice system changed.
Vance was the chosen successor to Robert M. Morgenthau, who served for 35 years and built the office’s reputation as one of the largest and most ambitious tax agencies in the country. When Vance took command, he pledged to abide by the practices he claimed had served the office for years. He said, while campaigning, he wouldn’t try to fix what wasn’t broken.
But at times, the 66-year-old Vance seemed to be swimming against public opinion in his liberal neighborhood, as the Black Lives Matter and Me Too movements raised awareness of ingrained biases in the criminal justice system and led to calls for reform.
The race of eight candidates to succeed Vance reflects these new political currents. Three of the candidates for the New York County District Attorney’s position have no tax experience. The other five in the profession distanced themselves from Vance, including two who worked in his office, Lucy Lange and Diana Florence, who seldom mention his tenure favorably.
During his three terms in office, Vance won praise for pioneering data-driven methods for targeting violent crime more effectively, but has been criticized in some quarters for being too reluctant to investigate powerful figures.
“He’s been cautious about the high-profile cases that he brought,” said Mark F. Scholl, a veteran in the attorney general’s office. “He was more concerned with not making mistakes than anything else.”