Czajka is running for his fifth non-consecutive term as Columbia County’s District Attorney (DA) on the Republican line against Keeler, who served as the county DA for one term beginning in 1984.
The ad, which appears on Instagram, features a black-and-white photograph of Keeler with the text, “Unqualified. Untrustworthy. Unsuccessful. Eugene Keeler is unfit to be District Attorney.”
“Eugene Keeler hasn’t practiced law in almost 10 years, switches parties when it’s convenient, and has failed us before,” the text below the picture reads.
When contacted Tuesday, Keeler did not deny the ad’s assertion about his work history, but said he was out to run a positive campaign, and that he had been working in “allied criminal justice fields” for the past ten years.
Keeler worked as a licensed clinical social worker with COARC, the county chapter of ARC, an organization for people with special needs, he said.
He served as the organization’s director of legal and advocacy services, according to his campaign website.
Keeler has also worked as a social worker at the Coxsackie Correctional Facility and has run the Impaired Driver Program for the Hudson-Mohawk Recovery Center in Troy during the last decade, he said.
“I’ve learned a great deal about how our criminal justice system isn’t working, just not from a court room,” he said. “…most lawyers stay in the courtroom and don’t have a clue about what’s going on in the real world.”
Keeler, who has also served as a public defender, ran twice for DA after serving his first term, losing to Beth Cozzolino in 2007 and Czajka in 2011.
When asked why he thought he would be victorious this time around, Keeler said there had been “a great awakening on the local voter level of the need for criminal justice reform in our country,” and the federal and state government had already taken note.
New York passed a comprehensive criminal justice reform bill this year drastically changing court proceedings in the state, including ending the bail system as we know it.
“In the old days, if you could say you had a 98 percent conviction rate, everyone though the DA’s office was doing great…but those days are gone,” Keeler said. “People are understanding that there’s much more to the position of the district attorney than just getting convictions,” Keeler said.
The Instagram ads were paid for by Friends of Paul Czajka, an election committee, and have been running since Aug. 22, according to Instagram. The committee spent $394 on the attack ads and pro-Czajka ads from Sept. 2 – Sept. 8, according to Instagram.
Friends of Paul Czajka raised $48,065 from Jan. 11 – July 11, according to state Board of Elections filings, about which $40,000 came from individuals. The committee spent about $14,600 through that date, though the filings do not include the ad purchases, as they happened after the last Board of Elections filing date.
If elected, Keeler wants the DA’s office to recommend sentences with the advice of an advisory board consisting of victim’s services personnel, substance abuse workers and mental health professionals, as well as those in the legal profession.
He also wants to expand Chatham Cares 4 U – a local incarnation of a national program allowing people with drug problems to be enrolled in rehab at police stations without being arrested – LEAD program.-
The election is November 5th.