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Erie County DA candidates debate at WNED|WBFO Studios

Eileen Koteras Elibol/WNED
DA candidates John Flynn (l.) and Joseph Treanor III (r.) debated the issues Thursday in the WNED|WBFO Studios

The candidates running to be Erie County's next district attorney squared off in a debate in the WNED|WBFO Studios Thursday morning. Democrat John Flynn and Republican Joseph Treanor III participated in a 50-minute debate heard live on WBFO.

The debate was a partnership of WNED|WBFO, WGRZ-TV and The Buffalo News. It was moderated by WBFO News Director Brian Meyer with two veteran journalist panelists, Claudine Ewing of WGRZ and Bob McCarthy of The Buffalo News, asking questions of the candidates. The debate also aired live on WGRZ and on the websites of all three outlets.

It was the second debate between the candidates in three days. On Tuesday, the candidates met inside St. Joseph's Collegiate Institute in Kenmore. Both touted their military experience that day. But during Thursday's debate, Flynn suggested while Treanor speaks of his extensive military justice experience, it's not the same as having experience in the DA's office.

"He wants to make a big deal about his military justice experience," Flynn said. "He uses a phrase on a number of occasions, that it's like riding a bike. Well, the DA's office is like riding a Harley."

Treanor stayed on his military background, telling the panelists that it would create a culture of discipline within the DA's office that would help reduce the number of wrongful prosecutions.

"The fact of the matter is, the military justice system takes greater care that wrongful accusations don't occur," said Treanor, who also criticized the DA's office for what he believed was an unacceptably slow pace for freeing Anthony Capozzi, who was found to be wrongly convicted of sexual assaults that were later proven to be committed by serial rapist Altemio Sanchez.

The candidates exchanged points - and barbs - on numerous issues including campaign donations. Treanor, as he did Tuesday, stated that his campaign is fully self-funded.

"I invite you to look at the New York State Board of Elections website," Treanor said. "You will see that I pay for my own campaign. My fundraising is zero dollars."

Flynn says Treanor's campaign got some help in the primaries from a negative mailer funded by the Republican Party. On Tuesday, after the debate at St. Joe's, Treanor acknowledged the mailers but said that initiated outside his official campaign. 

Treanor was, in turn, critical of Flynn's campaign donations and suggested that his lack of endorsements further cements him as a true outsider candidate. Flynn, who has said his connections would prove useful in ensuring adequate funding for the DA's office, said Thursday that those who do contribute will get no favors in return.

"Just because a lawyer contributes to my campaign, I am somehow beholden to them. That's insulting," Flynn said. "It's the same thing for law enforcement agencies. No law enforcement agency has endorsed me with the promise of any favors. That's not going to happen."

The two candidates are vying to fill the post vacated by former district attorney Frank Sedita III. Michael Flaherty has been serving as acting DA since Sedita left the job to take a judgeship. Flynn defeated Flaherty in the Democratic Primary last month.

Election Day is November 8.

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