Convicting Donald Trump made Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg a star. What’s next for him?

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Bragg is riding high since last Thursday, when Donald Trump was convicted in Manhattan Criminal Court on 34 counts of falsifying business records by listing reimbursements for hush money payments as legal expenses.

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg attends Sunday services at the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem, where he’s just another parishioner. But when he entered the historically Black church on Sunday, after securing the first-ever conviction of a former president, he drew a shoutout from the pulpit and a standing ovation.
“Bragg really deserves all the flowers,” tweeted Elie Mystal, the widely followed justice correspondent at the left-leaning Nation magazine.

“Clearly, that was a popular decision in Manhattan,” said Kenneth T. Jackson, editor-in-chief of “The Encyclopedia of New York.” In 2020, Trump won just 12% of Manhattan’s votes.

Bragg had already made history as the New York County District Attorney, covering Manhattan. In 2021, he became the first African American ever elected to that office.

New York City Mayor Eric Adams, a centrist Democrat, is up for reelection next year. With just 28% approval and 58% disapproval among New Yorkers in the most Quinnipiac University poll, he looks potentially vulnerable to a primary challenge from the left. In 2026, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul, who also has a net-negative approval rating, will face reelection.

So could Bragg, a Democrat, successfully challenge one of them, or run in another four years, when Adams would be term-limited out of office and Hochul would be over 70 years old?

“If (Bragg) wants to run for mayor, that’d probably be a possibility,” said Jackson, who is the former president of the New York Historical Society. “Here’s the guy who took on the challenge of the most powerful person in the world, with a case that people didn’t think was the strongest case in history, and to get a unanimous verdict 34 times − you couldn’t get that unanimity voting for motherhood or apple pie.”

If Bragg decided to run for higher office, he’d hardly be the first New York prosecutor to do so.

A history of high-profile prosecutors

Since Manhattan is the capital of U.S. commerce, any prosecutor with jurisdiction there has the opportunity to make national headlines.

In the 20th Century, Manhattan DAs Charles Whitman and Thomas Dewey parlayed prosecutions of corrupt politicians and mafiosos into the New York governorship. Dewey went on be the Republican nominee who was so widely expected to beat President Harry Truman in 1948 that the Chicago Daily Tribune prematurely celebrated his victory on the front page.

Rudy Giuliani rode media stardom as the mafia-fighting U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, which includes Manhattan, to City Hall, from which he became a nationwide household name and an early frontrunner for the 2008 GOP presidential nomination.

New York state attorneys general such as Eliot Spitzer and Andrew Cuomo also have combatted corporate malfeasance, building a brand that vaulted them to the governorship. With Trump’s prosecution, Bragg joins that lineage.

“Manhattan or the Southern District of New York are the most important courts of the United States,” said Jackson. “In some ways, it’s the center of the legal universe in the United States, and it’s the center of the business world, and the center of the media world, and the first criminal trial of a former president.”

The pipeline from state attorney general to governor is so well-established that the biggest obstacle to Bragg running for governor might be state Attorney Letitia James, who won a $453.5 million civil fraud judgment against Trump in February.

A prosecutor, not a politician

Unlike, say, Melinda Katz, who became district attorney across the East River in Queens after serving as City Council member and borough president, Bragg is not a career politician. The 2021 DA race was his first campaign. Previously, he worked as an assistant state attorney general and an assistant U.S. attorney.

But the newcomer won on a platform of criminal justice reform, which is popular in the liberal borough. Bragg’s political advisor Richard Fife, who is consulting for Bragg’s 2025 reelection campaign, says Bragg wants to continue implementing that agenda.

“There are electeds who are in office and always looking for the next office and that’s just not his mindset,” Fife said.

“I’m not saying never (will he run for higher office), I’m saying he’s happy in his position,” Fife added. “He started a lot of initiatives like a wage theft unit, like a tenant rights unit. He reinvigorated the sex crimes unit. There are a lot of things going on in the office that he wants to continue. That’s his focus.”

Bragg lives in the district of Rep. Adriano Espaillat, 69, and near the district of Rep. Jerry Nadler, 76. One of those seats could open up due to retirement in the years ahead.

But a source close to Bragg suggested that if he ever did seek higher office, he’d be more likely to look at executive positions like mayor or governor, or perhaps the state attorney general’s office, rather than legislative seats.

More: Who is Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg? Prosecutor has battled Donald Trump in court before

Overcoming the skeptics

Bragg’s tenure got off to a rocky start in 2022, with attacks from his right and his left. Conservatives blasted his decision − which kept a campaign promise − to stop prosecuting minor crimes such as riding the subway without paying.

That same year, when he passed on prosecuting Trump for defrauding lenders by inflating the value of his real estate assets, two disappointed prosecutors quit his office. One called it “a grave failure of justice,” sparking critical coverage of Bragg. (James’s successful civil case against Trump was for the same actions.)

And when Bragg indicted Trump, many eyebrows were raised by those who questioned the strength of the somewhat convoluted case against Trump. And hands were wrung among Trump critics who feared it threatened to undermine Trump’s forthcoming indictments in other jurisdictions for trying to steal the 2020 election and hiding classified documents from the FBI after leaving office.

One legal expert who had questioned the case graciously conceded on the New York Times op-ed page that Bragg has now been vindicated.

See reactions as Donald Trump found guilty in NY criminal trial

Republicans have decried the prosecution as politically motivated and that it was orchestrated by the White House.

“Today is a shameful day in American history,” House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., said in a statement. “The weaponization of our justice system has been a hallmark of the Biden Administration, and the decision today is further evidence that Democrats will stop at nothing to silence dissent and crush their political opponents.”

They have not offered any evidence that the Biden administration influenced Bragg, and Bragg’s allies deny it.

“The way Alvin looks at it is not the typical political way,” Fife said. “He looks at things really in a way of pursuing justice.”

Before, during and after his trial, Trump attacked Bragg, calling him “a local failed district attorney” and even holding a campaign event at a Harlem bodega where Bragg controversially had prosecuted the store clerk for stabbing a man in self-defense, before dropping the charges.

But Bragg’s unpopularity with Republicans is hardly an obstacle to winning elections in Manhattan, New York City or even New York state, which favored Biden over Trump by more than 20 points in 2020.

Jackson noted that Bragg’s low-key style contrasts the flashy, combative public persona of some past politically successful prosecutors like Spitzer and Giuliani. Bragg didn’t hog the spotlight during the trial, avoiding interviews and limiting public statements.

But during the trial, polling showed Bragg with strongly net positive approval ratings among New York City voters.

“In my district, people have not been as critical of him as they have been in other places,” said Jo Anne Simon, a Brooklyn Democrat from a progressive district. “He is an incredibly talented and experienced attorney who really knows his stuff. He knew he wanted to build an ironclad case that in fact could win, so he took his time and he built the case.”