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Sex and Gender Drive N.Y. DA Debate

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Sex and gender took center stage during a televised debate for the Manhattan district attorney race on Tuesday evening, when NY1 moderator Dominic Carter asked Leslie Crocker Snyder, the lone woman in the competitive three-way Democratic primary, what she meant by her repeated use of the term "old boys network."

Snyder had invoked the label to criticize opponent Cyrus Vance Jr. for his alleged "cozy relationship" with retiring DA Robert Morgenthau and former New York governor Eliot Spitzer. She was responding to a question about whether Spitzer, who resigned over his involvement in a prostitution scandal last year, should have been prosecuted for a crime.

"I'm referring to the establishment and a group of people -- there could even be a few women in it now; it's not necessarily all 'old boys' who know each other -- [who] have certain power, talk to each other, pick up the phone and tell people what to do," said Snyder.

The former judge offered the example of how Supreme Court justice Sonia Sotomayor, with whom she compared herself as a "strong woman and a strong judge," was treated during her Senate confirmation hearings.

"I'm not unhappy about it, it's just unfortunate," Snyder said.

Cy Vance Jr., son of the late Cyrus Vance, who served as secretary of state under President Jimmy Carter, deflected the charge by appealing to his endorsements from prominent women and the city's three major daily newspapers.

"I think that supporters of mine like Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez, Gloria Steinem, Caroline Kennedy, and the women who sat and made the decisions on the editorial boards of The New York Times, the Daily News, and the New York Post would be surprised, frankly, that they are part of the old boys network," said Vance.

Candidate Richard Aborn distanced himself from the sparring between Snyder and Vance, using the Spitzer question as an opportunity to caution against calling prostitution a "victimless" crime.

"There are pimps on our street tonight that force women into prostitution, holding them against their will," he said.

The three candidates are competing to replace Morgenthau, who is stepping down after nearly 35 years at the helm of the prestigious local prosecutorial office. Whoever wins the primary on September 15 effectively takes the seat, as there is no Republican opponent.

Watch the debate here.

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