Tompkins County District Attorney Matt Van Houten announced Monday that he would seek re-election to his seat this year. Van Houten, a Democrat, has served one term so far, winning an election for the seat in 2016.
“It is my greatest honor to serve the people of Tompkins County as District Attorney," Van Houten said. "Our work is not done and I’m just as excited to serve the people today as I was when I took office."
Van Houten's practiced law in Tompkins County for over 20 years, working at Wiggins & Masson in Ithaca and as a partner in the local law firm Holmberg, Galbraith, Van Houten & Miller.
During his first term, Tompkins County has been a model for progressive criminal justice in New York. “My team strives to utilize a humane and compassionate approach, be fair and objective, while listening and reflecting the community’s values. Being a prosecutor does not mean “winning at all costs.” It’s about the long-term safety of the community.”
Van Houten lists his administration's accomplishments as:
● Local jail population reduction
● Prioritized decriminalization of non-violent crimes
● Addressing the underlying issues that play a role in criminal behavior
● Prepared to implement the Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) program when it comes online
● Participated on the task force that created the Mental Health Court known as, Ithaca City Wellness and Recovery Court, a diversion program for individuals charged with non-violent offenses who struggle with mental illness.
● Consistently provided multiple alternatives to incarceration such as felony and misdemeanor level Drug treatment court and mental health court.
● Decreased unnecessary incarceration, saving the county tens of thousands of dollars annually.
Van Houten also laid out a list of policy goals for his second term, which include general targets like addressing and reducing the effects of biases in the criminal justice system, as well as expanding efforts to decriminalize non-violent offenses. More specifically, he also said his office is ready to implement and assist with the Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) plan whenever it is ready for installation and expand the impacts of the Mental Health Court.
“Undoubtedly, some cases must be prosecuted aggressively," Van Houten is quoted as saying in the release. "Violent crimes are prosecuted with the protection of the community as the top priority. So many victims of crimes can never be made whole by the judicial system. But they can be treated with respect, their stories told, and their voices heard.”
Earlier this week, local attorney Ed Kopko announced he would also be seeking the office, setting up a rematch between he and Van Houten after a contentious 2016 primary and general election.