Jim Ritts will be on the Republican line in November for Ontario County DA; opponent Kristina “Kitty” Karle also will be on the ballot
Jim Ritts won the Republican primary in the Ontario County District Attorney race Tuesday with 55 percent of the vote, or 3,164 votes. Opponent Kristina “Kitty” Karle took just under 45 percent, or 2,552 votes.
The two are vying to fill the seat being vacated by longtime Ontario County DA R. Michael Tantillo, who is not seeking re-election.
Running as well on the Reform line in Tuesday’s primary, Karle won that line with 56 percent, or 121 votes, to 43 percent, or 93 votes for Ritts.
Both candidates will be on the November ballot: Ritts on the Republican line and Karle on the Conservative, Independence and Reform lines. After unofficial results Tuesday from the county Board of Elections gave Ritts the Republican nod, the crowd gathered at The Inn on the Lake in Canandaigua cheered and congratulated Ritts — the county first assistant district attorney — who thanked his family and supporters.
“I am excited to work — I am going to serve you and make you proud as your DA,” Ritts said, with his wife Bonnie and son Kyle by his side.
Ritts said in a statement released later: “I’m honored and humbled to have earned the trust of the voters to be the Republican nominee for Ontario County District Attorney.
“Today’s Primary Election win means a lot to me and my family, but this is far more important to our broader community than it is to just us. Ontario County faces big challenges and I’m up to the task of tackling them.
“This was a tough race, but we’re not done yet. Now we will push ahead toward the General Election in November and then, God willing, delivering four years of hard work for the people of Ontario County as your next District Attorney.
“Thank you from the bottom of my heart.”
Karle was not at The Inn on the Lake for the results. In a response to a call, she replied via text: “I’m very proud of the positive campaign I have run, and I have no regrets. I am a fighter and people that know me know I don’t quit. I got into this race because I know I can make a real difference and that I have the experience to serve as District Attorney of this county. That being said, I will seek counsel from the people that I know, love, and trust. But my instincts say to fight.”
Trish Turner, chair of the Ontario County Republican Committee, said after Ritts won that the GOP’s committee did not endorse either candidate before the primary because they were evenly split in their support for both candidates. “We had two good candidates,” she said.
Ritts received an endorsement early on in the primary race from Tantillo, who had appointed Ritts as his first assistant district attorney in January. Ritts is an 18-year veteran of the DA’s office and has prosecuted hundreds, if not thousands, of serious felony cases ranging from murder to aggravated assaults, robberies, burglaries and drug trafficking, Tantillo noted.
Karle, an attorney in private practice in Rochester and Canandaigua, also worked 10 years in the Monroe County District Attorney’s Office. Karle said she has handled more than 80 felony jury trials, most of which were child sexual and physical abuse cases and homicides.
The primary race turned contentious, centering around the issue of prosecutorial misconduct. In endorsing Ritts, Tantillo stated Karle is “unfit to hold the office based on her history of Prosecutorial Misconduct …”
Karle was admonished by the appellate court for misconduct as a prosecutor in Monroe County. All the cases involved sexually abused children. The candidates clashed over that issue and other topics at a live debate last week at The Inn on the Lake. Ritts emphasized his clean record and years of experience as a prosecutor in the Ontario County DA’s office. Karle pushed her commitment to justice, keeping Ontario County safe and passion for returning to her Honeoye roots. She defended comments she made as a Monroe County prosecutor that led to being cited by the court — while saying she would refrain from those behaviors in the future. Turning the table, Karle accused Ritts of misconduct, which he denied, regarding a laundry list of cases including a recent one in which Ritts was prosecutor and Karle the defense co-counsel.
Karle accused Ritts of running a negative campaign because he drew attention to her admonishment from the court. Ritts said Tuesday before the primary results came in that he wouldn’t have campaigned differently.
“The public needed to know,” he said. “I don’t call that negative campaigning.”
The opponents also clashed over handling of plea deals, murder cases, the opiate epidemic and other hot-button topics.
In the campaign finance department, Karle amassed more than double the amount of cash with pre-primary filing with the state Board of Elections showing nearly $50,000, to just over $15,400 for Ritts. Many donors came from Monroe County. Despite a fundraising gap of $34,491, each received sizable support from law enforcement. Karle was endorsed by the Ontario County Police Benevolent Association; Ritts was backed by the New York State Police Investigators Association and police unions in the cities of Geneva and Canandaigua.