The race for New York Attorney General is really quite interesting. Each of the leading contenders in the September 13th race has real credibility problems. The leader, Letitia “Tish” James, is the Public Advocate (Number 2) in New York City. Her problem is that people are suggesting that she will be a sycophant to Governor Andrew Cuomo, should he win his office. Nonetheless, James has a lot going for her. She is smart, she is African-American, she holds a high office and probably most importantly, she comes from New York City and has been endorsed by Andrew Cuomo and the good old, good old Democratic establishment. James leads in the early polls, although most people confess they have no idea who the candidates are and anything could happen between now and the New York state-wide primary. At this point, it is hers to lose.
Andrew Cuomo has endorsed her in the most glowing of terms. Cuomo, you will remember, has some real corruption problems having surrounded himself with some of the worst scoundrels and thieves in the history of New York corruption. So James, who might have to run up against Cuomo as his commitment to fighting corruption continues to flag, might be perceived as too soft on the Dark Prince (Cuomo.) To combat this widespread belief, James has come out swinging saying that she will be unafraid got go head to head with Cuomo. She says that he was wrong to disband the Moreland Act crime fighting commission (duh!). Another problem for James is the fact that she turned down the Working Families designation for AG, reportedly because Cuomo, who himself was denied that WFP designation for governor, told her she couldn’t take it. That’s a real credibility issue, given her claim that she has the guts to take on Cuomo.
The number two candidate, at least for now, is Sean Patrick Maloney, a bright, articulate congressman who happens to be quite ambitious. In fact, his ambition has led him to run for two offices at the same time. He has already been nominated to run for his congressional seat in the Hudson Valley and now he is running for the Attorney General spot. This has caused a good deal of consternation and led to press condemnation. His problem is that if he doesn’t win his AG primary he will surely have to go back to his congressional constituency. They might be miffed with him and vote against him, thereby leaving his congressional seat at risk in a year when a single congressional loss for the Democrats could mean losing their chance to flip the House and potentially spell the downfall of Donald Trump. Plus, if you want to win a Democratic primary, you really have to come from one of the five boroughs. The last time I looked, the Hudson Valley was not even close to the Bronx.
Another candidate in the race is Zephyr Teachout. She once gave Andrew Cuomo a real run for his money in a Democratic primary and she has the support of Cynthia Nixon. She does have some name recognition but her polling has been weak. Teachout has been speaking out forcefully about Cuomo but Cuomo is way ahead in his polls and has been heading left as fast as his legs will carry him. Leecia Eve, the daughter of powerhouse Arthur Eve who was once a top Democratic legislator, has not caught fire and comes from the Buffalo area.
In addition to the Democrats there is a Republican-Conservative Candidate, Keith Wofford, and an outstanding Green Party candidate, Michael Sussman. They will be running in the general election and we’ll talk more about them in future columns.
There is an old maxim in New York politics that people don’t pay attention to races like these until Labor Day. By that time, I predict this race will get very intense and dirty.