The first indications that District Attorney Stephan Passalacqua’s re-election bid was in trouble may have come in early February when he attributed Jill Ravitch’s fundraising success to “sweetheart deals” with defense attorneys.

The backlash was swift and strong.

We immediately started receiving letters challenging Passalaqua to prove his allegation, some of them noting that Ravitch had been a member of his staff. Some letters were from denizens of the courthouse, others appeared to be from rank-and-file voters. The demands were sharpened by Martin Woods, a lawyer and Ravitch donor who pointed out that trading campaign cash for favors in court would violate ethics codes and that Passalacqua was duty-bound to bring any such case to the state Bar.

Instead of turning to other lines of attack, Passalacqua continued to hammer away.

He didn’t get it, but “sweetheart deals” was a loser from the start. Ravitch’s strongest selling point is that she’s a tough-on-crime prosecutor. She has the record to prove it; even her critics concede that. So suggestions that she was trading plea bargains for campaign cash just didn’t pass the smell test.

That may not be the only reason that Passalacqua appears to be headed for defeat after two terms, but it sure didn’t help him.

— Jim Sweeney