amNewYork endorses Letitia James for NY attorney general

 New York City Public Advocate Letitia  James.
New York City Public Advocate Letitia James. Photo Credit: Courtesy of Dance Theatre of Harlem

Only the most engaged Democrats will vote in the state party primary for attorney general next week, and they’re likely to be itching for a candidate who makes the most noise about using the office to thwart President Donald Trump’s administration.

That would be a waste of your vote. Current state Attorney General Barbara Underwood, chosen by the State Legislature to replace Eric Schneiderman after he resigned, is on the case. Underwood, a former acting solicitor general of the United States, is also investigating whether Trump’s businesses in New York are violating the federal constitutional ban on presidents receiving payment from foreign governments and is in the lead with other states in suing the federal government over its immigration policies and regulatory rollbacks.

All four attorney general candidates have pledged to keep Underwood on.

So who is the best candidate to run the state’s 600-attorney public law firm? That candidate is Letitia James, the public advocate for New York City, a former City Council member and former head of the attorney general’s regional office in Brooklyn. She will be a passionate advocate for criminal justice reforms, the rights of consumers and ferreting out taxpayer fraud. James, who goes by Tish, will use the office to advance gender equity in the workplace and protect New Yorkers from unscrupulous landlords.

Leecia Eve, a former aide to Hillary Clinton when she was in the Senate, is a lobbyist for Verizon and a commissioner with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. She is intently focused on criminal justice reform, but the Buffalo native’s campaign barely registers downstate.

Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney worked for Govs. Eliot Spitzer and David Paterson and would ably handle the job. But he shows little passion for the run as evidenced by his decision to run simultaneously for re-election to Congress.

Zephyr Teachout, a law professor, is seeking a national platform for her government reform ideas but doesn’t seem to have a strong grasp of the job she seeks. She doesn’t demonstrate a granular understanding of how the attorney general’s office works, saying all she needs to do is establish a “legal strategy” for the office. In the past four years, Teachout ran unsuccessfully for governor and Congress, in an upstate race in which she showed little enthusiasm for recently enacted state gun-control laws.

Teachout became a registered member of the New York bar only a few weeks ago. She dismisses her failure to take the steps to practice law in the state as insignificant but it gives credence to the concern that Teachout talks a big game but isn’t much interested in specifics.

Tish James came up through the ranks as a scrappy fighter and is now the party’s designated candidate. She promises this won’t diminish her independence as attorney general.

amNewYork endorses James.