HUDSON-The Columbia County Democratic Committee has officially endorsed former District Attorney Eugene Keeler as the party's candidate for DA in the November election.
The county's Democratic leadership also selected Dr. George Davis of Clermont as its candidate for coroner.
If no one challenges the candidates in a primary, both will appear on the Democratic line in the fall.
The committee met Thursday, April 26, at Ghent Town Hall.
Incumbent District Attorney Beth Cozzolino has not yet announced whether she plans to seek another term. She was unavailable for comment Monday. But even if she does decide to seek reelection, she may face a primary from trial attorney Catherine Leahy Scott, 46, of Kinderhook, also a Republican. Ms. Leahy Scott announced her intention to seek the post March 29.
Mr. Keeler said Monday that of the 80 people present at the committee meeting, only one person officially voted "no" in response to his nomination. "I am ecstatic and humbled by the overwhelming support of the county committee," he said.
In a press release, county Democratic Committee Chairman Ken Dow expressed "enthusiasm for the caliber of candidates coming forward this year." He was optimistic that the party's rank and file members would approve of the choices.
Mr. Keeler is currently the county's conflict public defender and has been practicing law in Columbia County for 28 years, according to Mr. Dow. Mr. Keeler is also a licensed certified social worker.
Mr. Keeler received his law degree from the University of Memphis and his master's degree from the University of Tennessee. He got his undergraduate education at St. Lawrence University. He is married to Donna Morgan; they have three children.
Mr. Keeler served as district attorney from 1984-1987. He was also an assistant district attorney, public defender and assistant public defender, as well as maintaining a private legal practice in Hudson. In addition, he is the director of legal and advocacy services for COARC in Mellenville. He is a member of the New York State Bar Association, and former president of Keeler Insurance Agency in Hudson.
"Gene Keeler has dedicated his life to justice. He has the experience, principles, and courage to ensure that we are all subject to the same rule of law and to see that true justice will be the rule in Columbia County," said Mr. Dow.
"Justice is about punishment and rehabilitation," said Mr. Keeler. "We need to put dangerous criminals behind bars, but we also need to recognize that many of the individuals who come through the criminal justice system are regular folks who have made mistakes, and we need to find ways to help them become more productive members of our communities."
Coroner candidate Dr. George Davis received his B.A. degree from Harvard University and his M.D. from Columbia in 1972. He also has a Master's degree in bioethics, and a wide range of medical training and experience.
Currently, he is a family physician at the Callan Family Health Center in Copake and an attending physician at Columbia Memorial Hospital and has served as president of the medical staff at Columbia-Greene Medical Center, chairman and founder of the ethics committee at Columbia Memorial Hospital, and faculty member of the Department of Family Practice at Albany Medical College.
He is a volunteer physician with Doctors of the World, a human rights organization that assists people seeking asylum in the United States from countries all over the world.
Dr. Davis said that he has gained experience in forensics through this volunteer work, and also has an extensive background with terminal patients in his previous role as medical director of The Community Hospice of Columbia/Greene. He is board certified in hospice and palliative medicine, and is the recipient of the Winchester Award from Columbia University for exemplifying the humanitarian aspects of medicine.
Mr. Dow said that Dr. Davis would bring "a new dimension of excellence" to the position of county coroner.
To contact reporter Diana Ladden, e-mail dladden@IndeNews.com.