New York attorney general race: Letitia James, Keith Wofford, more candidates

Democratic candidate Letitia James and Republican candidate Keith Wofford are vying to become the next New York attorney general.
Democratic candidate Letitia James and Republican candidate Keith Wofford are vying to become the next New York attorney general. Photo Credit: Larry Sharpe for Governor

Letitia James, New York City’s public advocate, won the race to become New York attorney general Tuesday night.

She bested Republican candidate Keith Wofford to become the state’s first black attorney general.

As the state’s top lawyer, the attorney general oversees hundreds of cases and acts as the public face of the office.

During their respective campaigns, both James and Wofford vowed to tackle malfeasance in Albany, following the corruption convictions of former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and former Republican Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos and Joseph Percoco, a former top aide to Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Former Attorney General Eric Schneiderman abruptly left the position in May after The New Yorker published an article quoting women accusing him of physical assault. Acting Attorney General Barbara Underwood, who is the first woman to hold the position, chose not to run to keep the office.

Scroll down to learn more about the candidates’ campaigns.

Letitia “Tish” James

New York City Public Advocate Letitia
New York City Public Advocate Letitia “Tish” James announces her campaign for New York attorney general at the Brooklyn Historical Society on May 16. Photo Credit: Charles Eckert

James has been the public advocate of New York City since 2014 and is the first woman of color to hold the office. Before becoming public advocate, she was a city council member, an assistant attorney general and a public defender.

As public advocate, James has consistently fought for tenants’ rights, and last year she introduced legislation that bans questions about salary history in the city.

James has received the backing of Cuomo and was nominated to be the Democratic candidate at the party’s state convention.

James has made President Donald Trump a focus of her campaign, saying she will fight his “abuses against immigrants, against women, against our environment.” 

But she also has vowed to focus on several other issues, including the affordable housing crisis and lead poisoning in parts of the state. “The next attorney general needs to be more than a one-trick pony,” she said during a Democratic primary debate.

She argues that Wofford would be beholden to corporations because of his experience in private litigations.

Keith Wofford

Wofford is a partner at Ropes & Gray, an international law firm, whose clients include a variety of businesses. He is currently on a leave of absence for the campaign.

Wofford has billed himself as the “independent political outsider” in the race, criticizing James for her relationship with Gov. Andrew Cuomo. 

​“New Yorkers have a simple choice. Whether to elect another career politician, who will uphold the corrupt status-quo — OR choose an independent outsider, who will do what’s in the best interests of this State,” he said in a statement.

He also has criticized Schneiderman for his “progressive crusade” and vowed not to intimidate businesses into settlements, which he said past attorneys general have done.

If elected, Wofford has pledged to launch an investigation into “systemic corruption” involving state and local officials without waiting for approval from the governor or state Legislature, citing the common law legal doctrine of parens patriae.

“Parens patriae both obligates and authorizes the attorney general to pursue both illegal and legal corruption wherever it occurs, from the state capitol to any of its municipalities,” Wofford said.

Third party candidates:

There are also a few third party candidates who have filed with the Board of Elections, including Michael Sussman, who is running as a Green Party candidate, and Christopher Garvey, running as a Libertarian.