Updated: The race for attorney general takes shape

Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney speaks during the final day of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia
Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney speaks during the final day of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia
John Minchillo/AP/REX/Shutterstock
Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney speaks during the final day of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.

Updated: The race for attorney general takes shape

Who’s in, who’s out, and who’s on the fence.
June 6, 2018

In the immediate aftermath of Eric Schneiderman’s downfall, the field of possible candidates to replace him seemed more crowded than a subway car at rush hour. Now that the dust has settled and the state Legislature has appointed Acting Attorney General Barbara Underwood as the interim for the remainder of the year, the race to fill the position in the November elections is beginning.

The state Democratic and Republican conventions last month officially designated the candidates for each party, but Democrat Letitia James and Republican Keith Wofford aren’t the only candidates for voters to consider. Here is a rundown of who is in and out of the attorney general race.

Who’s in:

New York City Public Advocate Letitia James, once considered a leading contender in the 2021 New York City mayoral race, became the first to officially throw her hat in the ring and launch her campaign for the Democratic nomination last week. She is off to a strong start, racking up endorsements from unions and prominent public officials, such as New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, Rep. Joe Crowley and Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Although she was endorsed by the state Democratic Party, James declined to seek the Working Families Party’s nomination for attorney general. She has historically close ties to the party, and the WFP gave her a Wilson-Pakula certificate to allow her to run on the party’s line in the November general election. Some political observers believe that James agreed not to seek the WFP’s line in exchange for Cuomo’s endorsement and official Democratic Party designation.

However, this plan could be disrupted by the entrance of Leecia Eve into the race. Eve was an aide to Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton in the Senate, a former advisor to Clinton during her 2008 presidential campaign, and served as Cuomo’s deputy economic development secretary early in his tenure. Hillary Clinton is giving the keynote address at the Democratic convention. Eve already has the endorsement of former Clinton staffers, as well as from Basil Smikle, a former executive director of the State Democratic Party. If there is significant support for Eve from Clintonworld or Cuomoland, it could spell trouble for James.

Fordham Law professor Zephyr Teachout is also seeking the Democratic nomination for attorney general. She sought the WFP line as well, but, like James, received a Wilson-Pakula while the party nominated a placeholder. She officially launched her candidacy on June 5.

Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, New York’s first openly gay member of Congress, hopped into the race on June 5 as well. He currently has around $3 million in his campaign account, but there are questions about the legality of his bid, as well as the potential to leave a critical Democratic congressional seat vulnerable.

On the Republican side, Schneiderman’s erstwhile Republican opponent, Manny Alicandro, was shunted to the side by the state Republican Party at the convention. Joseph Holland, and former Republican gubernatorial candidate, sought the Republican designation for attorney general. However, Attorney Keith Wofford got the nod, and other candidates agreed to support him.

Who’s out:

Most of the people who were considered contenders for legislative appointment have since dropped out of the race to be appointed or the race to be elected. State Sen. Michael Gianaris, who ran for attorney general in 2006 and was sitting on a hefty pile of campaign cash, declined to run in this year’s race, instead endorsing James. Rep. Kathleen Rice has also announced that she will not be running for the Democratic nomination.

Republican John Cahill, who was being urged by some in his party to enter the race, also declined to run.

Who’s still considering a bid:

Tim Wu, Teachout’s running mate in her failed 2014 Democratic primary challenge to Cuomo, is mulling a bid.

The wild card in the race is Preet Bharara, former U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York. Bharara made a name for himself investigating some of the Legislature’s most corrupt officials, making him unpopular in Albany. He was fired by President Donald Trump last year, making him popular with the #resistance. The Reform Party nominated Bharara for attorney general on their ballot line, but it is unclear if he will accept it.

Grace Segers
is City & State’s digital reporter. She writes daily content on New York City and New York state politics.
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