By Tony Farina
With a nearly two-to-one Democratic advantage in Erie County, it would appear that Tonawanda Town Attorney John Flynn, who defeated Acting DA Michael Flaherty in the Democratic primary last month, would be a strong favorite to win the general election against Republican-Conservative Joe Treanor on Nov. 8 and take over as the county’s top criminal prosecutor.
But Flynn says he is not taking anything for granted and is working “twice as hard” as he did during the contentious Democratic primary against Flaherty, telling voters he has a big edge in experience against Treanor, a retired Air Force attorney.
“There is a significant difference in legal experience,” says Flynn. “He’s never never practiced in Buffalo City Court or in Supreme Court or appeared in any New York State courtroom. The difference [between us] is really night and day. I am a former homicide prosecutor in the district attorney’s office and a former judge who has handled thousands of criminal cases.”
Flynn emphasized the difference by saying that in 2015, only 380 cases went to court-martial in the Air Force while there were 15,000 cases in Buffalo City Court and another 14,000 cases in town justice courts during the same period.
“He [Treanor] is not being forthright about his experience in New York State,” says Flynn. “That is my message to the voters of this county.”
Treanor disagrees, of course, saying “truth be told, I think he lacks the criminal law experience I possess. I was in the military for 28 years and I specialized in criminal law. He has been doing civil law, and it is I who who has more extensive criminal law experience. It doesn’t matter what the forum…a criminal law litigator is a criminal law litigator. The sklll set is universal.”
When the Erie County Conservtive Party endorsed Flynn, a Democrat, over Treanor, an enrolled Conservative, it cited Flynn’s experience, saying his prosecutorial background as well as his experience as a Judge Advocate General in the U. S. Navy made him the best candidate for district attorney.
But Treanor, who already had the endorsement of the county Republican Party, defeated Flynn in the Conservative primary vote, 58.6 percent to 41.4 percent, saying that rank and file Conservatives “were offended” that a true Conservative was shunned by the party leadership.
However, it should be noted that Treanor, while insisting he is self-financed, was also helped in that Conservative primary by several mailers paid for by state Republicans, anxious to get him the third party line in a general election featuring Donald Trump at the top of the ticket.
Flynn made note of the negative GOP-paid-for primary mailers this week, attacking Treanor’s public statements that he is self-funded and independent by pointing to the GOP’s significant investment in his primary win.
Treanor, in his rebuttal, says Flynn has raised over $350,000 for his campaign and denied that he has asked for financial help in his own campaign. As for the GOP mailers, he said “I didn’t fund-raise, and if anybody wants to help, that’s their First Amendment right. I never asked and I can’t stop them. I strongly believe in being self-financed.” Treanor, who is relatively unknown in local legal circles, regards his no-ask campaign as a strength, saying that since he is self-funded, he is not beholden to anyone and defense lawyers “wll will have the same access and courtesy that I extend to everyone.”
As for the death of Richard Metcalf, the Erie County Holding
Center inmate whose death has now been ruled a homicide by the State Commission of Corrections, the two candidates have slightly different positions although both realize the case right now is in the hands of the acting district attorney who has said he consulting with his colleagues to determine a course of action.
Flynn, a former homicide prosecutor and also a former judge, said he believes Metcalf’s death which according to the state commission was caused by “restraint methods” at the Holding Center,”should be looked into.”
Treanor said for now, the matter is up to the local district attorney who has been urged by the state commission to open an investigation.
“I am very sorrowful for the family [of the inmate],” he said, “but I am sensitive to the need not to pre-judge a case,” adding that if he is elected district attorney, he would “absolutely prosecute” the case if that’s what’s called for.
One of Flynn’s consistent themes in his campaign for the office of district attorney is that he would be willing to take on the tough cases, and while the Erie County Holding Center has been under fire for many years for many deaths within its confines, Metcalf’s death that has now been called a homicide by the State Corrections Commission would certainly fit into that “tough case” category. A civil suit against the county has been filed by the family of the deceased inmate.