Charles Hynes is staying in the race for Brooklyn district attorney and will switch parties in order to stay on the ballot, his spokesman says.
Incumbent Hynes lost the Democratic primary to Kenneth Thompson in September, the first time a sitting district attorney lost in New York in a century.
But Hynes, 78, has the support of the GOP and Conservative Party lines and has been urged to campaign ahead of the Nov. 5 general election.
He has told Thompson he won't run. But on Thursday, his spokesman confirmed to NBC 4 New York he will announce his intention to campaign for his current job on the Republican and conservative lines.
Hynes has been the district attorney for more than 20 years and his tough-on-crime stance has garnered diverse support — and critics. He has gone further than most prosecutors with community outreach, creating programs that offer alternatives to incarceration, a gun buyback program replicated citywide and a family justice center where victims of abuse can seek refuge and get help in several languages.
But he came under fire for his handling of criminal cases in the Orthodox Jewish community — some said he was too cozy with powerful rabbis — and wrongful convictions, and the negative press swelled around the time of the primary.
Hynes has seen a groundswell of support through emails, text messages and phone calls from people voicing concerns about Thompson.
Still, a win as a Republican would be a challenge for Hynes. Of the more than 1.3 million registered voters in Brooklyn, about 984,800 are Democrats, 123,700 are Republicans and 4,900 are Conservatives, according to the city's board of elections. In the primary, only about 20 percent of Democrats voted, and Thompson won by about 18,000 votes.
Political leaders say Hynes can get GOP and conservative votes as well as the Democrats who didn't vote.
Thompson, 48, is an attorney and former federal prosecutor best known for his steadfast representation of the maid at the center of the sex scandal involving former International Monetary Fund head Dominique Strauss-Kahn. Hynes previously told Thompson that he would ensure a smooth transition. In an interview last month, Thompson said he hoped that would remain true.
"He not only said that to me, he said it to the people of Brooklyn," Thompson said. "I expect Joe Hynes to keep his word to the people of Brooklyn and not run as a Republican."
Thompson tried the brutal police attack on Abner Louima in 1999. Now in private practice, he most famously represented Nafissatou Diallo, the maid who accused former Strauss-Kahn of sexually assaulting her in a Manhattan hotel room in May 2011. The case fell apart amid questions over her credibility but led to Strauss-Kahn's public undoing and subsequent investigations in France.
He's said he has major plans for the office, one of the nation's largest with more than 1,500 new cases a week. It handles more than 80,000 cases per year. He hopes to tackle gun violence, create a cybercrime unit to combat rising identity theft, and retrain lawyers on evidence rules, after a series of wrongful convictions were exposed in part because prosecutors didn't turn over details.
"I hope to change the culture of the office," he said. "I want the assistant district attorneys who work for me to know that the fundamental duty of the prosecutor is to do justice and not just to convict someone."