WATERLOO — The two men squaring off Tuesday in a three-party primary election for Seneca County district attorney are touting their experience — albeit in different ways.
Christopher Folk is leaning on the combination of his seven years as Waterloo town judge and his managerial skills in the high-tech sector, which he believes can improve how the DA’s office runs.
“One of the things I bring to the table is efficiency. I can look at situations and am not the type of person to say we should do it this way because we’ve always done it this way,” he said. “When you think about what the DA’s day consists of, a very small amount of time is spent in the courtroom. Management is a big part of the job and increasing operational efficiency.”
Folk’s opponent, John Nabinger, is touting his more than two decades of experience as a prosecutor and defense attorney.
“The fact is I have 21 years as a criminal law attorney — six on the prosecution side and 15 on the defense side. This is all I’ve done,” he said. “I’ve literally spent tens of thousands of hours in a courtroom. I don’t know Chris personally, but all my interactions with him have been good, including in his court when he was a judge. I don’t have any issues with Mr. Folk in that respect. I simply think he doesn’t currently have the experience that I do in the courtroom.”
Nabinger has the backing of the Seneca County Republican Committee and is the designated candidate on the Conservative and Independence lines. If he prevails on any or all of those lines in the primary, he moves on to the November general election.
Folk’s name also appears on the Republican ballot, and he is waging a write-in campaign on the Conservative and Independence lines. Regardless of the primary results, Folk will be in the November election on the Working Families and Libertarian lines.
The Democratic candidate in November is Acting District Attorney Mark Sinkiewicz. He was appointed to the position after former DA Barry Porsch was elected county judge last November.
Folk, who is now the court attorney for Porsch, served briefly as an assistant DA under Porsch last year. He said he learned a lot about the DA’s office during that time.
“I loved being in the prosecution office. I think I could walk into any court in the county now and hit the ground running,” he said. “I’m deeply embedded in this community, both professionally and personally. I’ve lived here and worked here, and as a taxpayer I’ve gotten a feel for how things are.”
If elected, Folk said he would be a visible district attorney.
“A lot of people don’t understand what happens in our courts. I would like to let them know what the DA’s office does,” he said. “In my seven years as a judge I presided over a lot of bench trials and jury trials. I’ve been involved in the criminal justice system as much as I could be.”
Nabinger’s career began as an assistant Seneca County DA more than 20 years ago under then-DA Donna Cathy. He did that for three years, then spent three more as an assistant Onondaga County DA. He returned to become Seneca County’s assistant public defender due to a family medical issue.
“When Mike Mirras became public defender, we struck up a great friendship and always stayed in touch. He suggested coming back here and working for him,” Nabinger said. “I wasn’t sure the switch to the defense side was something I was willing to do ... but I went ahead and did it, and it turned out to be a great experience.
“This is what I’ve always wanted to do ... and with Porsch becoming a judge, that opened up an opportunity to come back to the prosecution side,” Nabinger continued. “People approached me about running for DA, and it’s really where I’ve always wanted to be.”