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CAYUGA COUNTY

Acting Cayuga County DA claims Hochul, Democrats made 'backroom deal' to replace her

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Brittany Grome Antonacci

Brittany Grome Antonacci is the acting Cayuga County district attorney. 

Acting Cayuga County District Attorney Brittany Grome Antonacci is accusing Gov. Kathy Hochul's office and the local Democratic Party of a "backroom deal" to appoint a Democrat as the county's top prosecutor. 

Grome Antonacci made the claim in a post on her Facebook page Sunday. Hochul's office, she wrote, is "playing politics by promising to appoint a Democrat to the position of district attorney, regardless of qualifications." 

"The appointment of an inexperienced and unqualified individual to such an important role should not be condoned regardless of political affiliation," she continued. "If this appointment is allowed to go through, the governor will send a clear message to the people of New York that partisan politics trumps the safety and best interests of our community." 

Grome Antonacci was named acting district attorney after Jon Budelmann resigned in December. Budelmann relinquished the post after being elected to serve as a Cayuga County Surrogate's Court judge. 

While Grome Antonacci is fulfilling the district attorney's duties, the position is technically vacant. Under state law, the governor can appoint someone to fill a vacancy until the next election. In this case, a new district attorney will be elected in November. 

Hochul's office hasn't revealed whether the governor will make an appointment. In December, a spokesperson for Hochul said that she is "reviewing her options." 

A Hochul spokesperson told The Citizen on Monday that "no appointment or decision has been made."

"Governor Hochul continues to review her options and will do what is best for all Cayuga County residents," they said. 

If there is an arrangement to appoint a Democrat as district attorney then that's news to Dia Carabajal, chair of the Cayuga County Democratic Committee. Carabajal previously told The Citizen that local Democrats have discussed the vacancy with the governor's office. 

On Monday, she reiterated that it's Hochul's call whether to appoint a new district attorney. 

"Miss Antonacci really thinks that she is very entitled to this job when she's only had it for a few weeks and she's only lived in town for a few months," Carabajal said in a phone interview. "I don't have any more information than anyone else has ... Miss Antonacci should spend her time unpacking and meeting the people of Cayuga County." 

Grome Antonacci has been in communication with the governor's office. In January, she sent an email to a gubernatorial aide informing them that her office was having difficulty filling vacant positions due to the uncertainty surrounding her status. She also warned the governor's office that appointing someone else to serve as the county's chief prosecutor could disrupt ongoing investigations and preparations for upcoming trials. 

The email also revealed that Grome Antonacci believed Hochul would decide whether to appoint a new district attorney by the end of December — around the time when Budelmann resigned. More than a month later, there has been no update on what, if any, action Hochul will take. 

Grome Antonacci is receiving support from local political parties and a law enforcement union. The Cayuga County Republican Committee urged its supporters to call Hochul's office and tell the governor "to leave the position of Cayuga County district attorney alone." 

"We want a DA who will prosecute and not be soft on crime like the rest of the woke (Democratic) DAs in the state!" the local GOP wrote on its Facebook page. 

Auburn Police Local 195, a union representing Auburn police officers, issued a statement backing Grome Antonacci and accusing the governor's office of a "dirty political scheme." 

"Our members have had nothing but good experiences working with DA Grome Antonacci, and we know that she is committed to keeping our community safe," the union said. 

Regardless of whether Hochul will appoint a new DA, Grome Antonacci is a candidate for a full four-year term. She is seeking the Republican and Conservative lines to run for district attorney this year. 

Online producer Robert Harding can be reached at (315) 282-2220 or robert.harding@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter @robertharding.

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Online producer and politics reporter

I have been The Citizen's online producer and politics reporter since December 2009. I'm the author of the Eye on NY blog and write the weekly Eye on NY column that appears every Sunday in the print edition of The Citizen and online at auburnpub.com.

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