Attorney General

Rice: I’m Plenty Independent

Nassau County DA Kathleen Rice is in Buffalo today to pick up the endorsement of Rep. Brian Higgins and was asked to respond to a suggestion by one of her Democratic AG primary opponents, Sen. Eric Schneiderman, that her perceived support from AG Andrew Cuomo renders her insufficiently independent to succeed him.

“The great thing about this year, especially for the race for attorney general and who will succeed Andrew Cuomo, is that the people, the voters of New York, are going to have a choice,” Rice told YNN’s Doug Sampson.

“There are five people in the Democratic primary, of which I am one, and the people are going to have a very clear choice about who they want to be their independent voice, their independent advocate who can represent them, first and foremost. I’m not a career Albany politician. That is very clear.”

“I’ve always been an independent voice, an independent advocate who has spoken for victims and consumers and taxpayers. And I think the choice for all New Yorkers this year is going to be very clear.”

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Schneiderman Raises Questions About Rice’s Independence

Could Nassau County DA Kathleen Rice be sufficiently independent as New York’s next attorney general?

One of her Democratic primary opponents isn’t sure, NY1’s Josh Robin reports.

Sen. Eric Schneiderman was asked about Rice during a news conference in City Hall Park at which he picked up the nod of ’06 AG candidate Sean Patrick Maloney.

Rice was widely believed to have AG Andrew Cuomo’s tacit support, although Cuomo signaled earlier today he’s open to backing someone else. (He specifically did not mention either Schneiderman or his fellow state lawmaker AG contender, Assemblyman Richard Brodsky).

Should Cuomo’s support for Rice – assuming it comes – give voters pause?

“I don’t know about given pause,” Schneiderman said. “I think the voters are going to want an attorney general that is independent of the governor.”

“You want to be friendly with the governor, be able to work with him. But look, Attorney General Cuomo investigated both of the governors under whom he served. And that’s sometimes the role of the attorney general – is to watch what’s going on in the executive branch. So, I think people want independence, but I don’t think that’s become a big issue.”

Asked whether Rice can be independent enough, Schneiderman replied:

“I don’t know. I hope so. I don’t know. I’m not sure what her thought processes are on these issues.”

During the question and answer period, Schneiderman also said he expects to get the WFP line, and dismissed concerns that Maloney’s endorsement was tainted because of his role in the Troopergate scandal.

Coffey Slams Wilson, Indys

Democratic AG contender Sean Coffey did not take kindly to being employed by Republican Harry Wilson as a cudgel to slam his opponent, Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, for accepting the Working Families Party line.

In a sharply-worded statement, Coffey slammed Wilson for “resorting to the same old politics” by claiming that he and AG Andrew Cuomo rejected the WFP because of its “extreme left-wing ideology” – a phrase neither Cuomo nor Coffey employed when discussing their reasons for declining to seek the labor-backed party’s line.

Coffey also accused Wilson of “failing to meet a standard” that he couldn’t meet himself after accepting the state Independence Party line despite the fact that it is embroiled in an investigation by the Manhattan DA’s office.
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Sean Patrick Maloney For Schneiderman

Sean Patrick Maloney, a onetime AG contender, LGBT advocate and ex-Spitzer/Paterson administration official, today endorsed Sen. Eric Schneiderman for the statewide office he unsuccessfully sought in 2006.

“Eric Schneiderman is a lifelong progressive Democrat with a proven track record of delivering results for all New Yorkers,” Maloney said in a statement released by Schneiderman’s campaign. (An in-person event is taking place this morning in City Hall Park in Manhattan).

“In a field of strong candidates, Eric stands out as the most experienced, most progressive and most independent leader,” Maloney continued.

“On issue after issue, time after time, Eric Schneiderman has been fighting for us, even when it wasn’t politically popular. As Attorney General, there is no doubt that Eric will continue his work fighting to make our state a fairer and more just place to live for every single New Yorker.”

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Cuomo Open To AG Candidates Other Than Rice

AG Andrew Cuomo this morning refused to commit to the Democratic contender widely viewed as his preferred replacement, Nassau County DA Kathleen Rice, saying he’s looking at a number of her primary opponents, too.

“I am not supporting any candidate at this time,” the Democratic gubernatorial nominee told Fred Dicker on Talk 1300-WGDJ-AM.

There are a number of quality candidates in that race,” Cuomo continued. “I’m looking at Kathleen Rice. I’m looking at Sean Coffey. I’m looking at Eric Dinallo. There are a number of them there, and I’ll have a decision down the road.”

Note that Cuomo specifically did NOT mention the other two Democratic AG contenders: Assemblyman Richard Brodsky and Sen. Eric Schneiderman. It seems these two run counter to Cuomo’s whole clean up Albany theme.
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WFP Taps Placeholders For Gov, LG, AG

The Working Families Party tapped three unknowns – all attorneys – to run for governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general at its convention in Buffalo today, signaling a clear willingness to deal with Democratic nominee Andrew Cuomo, who took a pass on its line.

Kenneth Schaeffer, a legal Legal Aid lawyer, United Auto Workers member, and a longtime WFP member and activist, is the labor-backed party’s candidate (for the moment) for governor.

Elon Harpaz, also a Legal Aid attorney, and a board member of the community group Good Old Lower East Side, is the LG contender.

Amy Young is an attorney for the Communications Workers of America and a longtime WFP member, is the AG candidate.

The party backed a single major party contender, Democratic state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli. (His GOP opponent, Harry Wilson, has already made the comptroller’s acceptance of the WFP line a campaign issue).

WFP Executive Director Dan Cantor made it clear these choices will be reconsidered at a later date, and also sounded less-than-thrilled about the AG decision.

“These outstanding individuals have shown a longstanding commitment to working families and they are the best candidates currently available,” Cantor said of the three placeholders.

“That said, they are all team players, and should stronger candidates emerge, WFP members may revisit today’s decisions.”

“In these turbulent times, working men and women continue to face abusive and predatory behavior in the marketplace and in the workplace,” Cantor said of the AG’s race.

“We need a strong champion for working families enforcing the laws of our state, not a laissez-faire lackey. A unified ticket with the Democrats could be important, so I expect the state committee may revisit this race in September.”

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Coffey Protests

Sean Coffey, one of the five Democratic AG contenders, had a full day of labor-related events in the Capital Region today.

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He started off this morning by meeting local union leaders at the Clarion in Albany. He then went to meet with steel workers at a picket line outside Albany Medical Center, and wrapped up at Momentive Performance Materials in Waterford today to attend the “Rally for a Just Contract” for IUE/CWA 81359.

A Coffey campaign aide who sent this photo noted the candidate’s father was a union carpenter for 50 years. Coffey wears his father’s carpenter pin on his lapel almost every day. (He also has a small US Navy medal that I noticed while chatting with him at the Democratic convention in Rye).

Coffey also be stopping by the YNN studios to record an interview with me that will air on “Capital Tonight” at 8 p.m. and 11:30 p.m.

He’ll be unveiling a stringent new legislative ethics proposal and also discussing his opposition to any AG candidate accpeting either the labor-backed Working Families Party line or the state Independence Party line, since both as under investigation.

Schneiderman Signs Koch’s Pledge

Taking a brief break from the GOP convention for a bit of news from the other side of the aisle: Sen. Eric Schneiderman has become the first statewide candidate to sign on to the reform pledge sent to every candidate running this fall by former Mayor Ed Koch’s PAC, New York Uprising.

Schneiderman, one of five Democratic AG contenders (all of whom were placed on the ballot at the party’s convention in Rye last week), released the following statement on his decision:

“As both an elected official and candidate for attorney general, I am proud to support this long overdue effort to reform state government from top to bottom.”

“Public trust is the most precious commodity in government, and restoring it in the state of New York must be our top priority. I applaud Mayor Koch for his leadership in fighting for redistricting reform, common sense budgeting and stronger ethics laws to give the people of New York the government they deserve.”

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Source: Antonacci Will Stand Down For Donovan

Make that two unopposed GOP statewide contenders.

Staten Island DA Dan Donovan will likely be unanimously nominated for attorney general at the GOP convention later this afternoon (assuming the governor vote finishes at some point), as Onondaga County Comptroller Bob Antonacci will end his long-shot bid to get on the ballot, according to a source familiar with the upstate lawmaker’s thinking.

Writes my source:

“Antonacci has said to Dan that he’s not interested in a primary – even if he gets to 25 percent – he’ll step aside for the good of the party and support Dan.”

This isn’t a big surprise.

Antonacci was mulling a state comptroller run, but switched when he realized Harry Wilson had that nod sewn up. He hasn’t managed to lock down much in the way of the weighted vote here at the convention.
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Speaking Of Diversity…

An astute reader notes a slightly more subtle omission from the Democratic ticket (as it stands at the moment) that I missed amid all the talk of lack of a minority statewide candidate.

There’s just one Jew. (Sen. Chuck Schumer, who I forgot to add in an earlier version of this post. But the point still stands, since, as an incumbent, he’s not really part of the ticket of candidates headed to Albany that Cuomo is trying to influence).

If you subscribe to the belief that ethnic politics is not dead in New York, then this could be troublesome for the Democrats, since liberal Jewish voters have long been a mainstay of support for the party – particularly in downstate primaries – although the conservative Orthodox community tends to trend more in favor of Republicans, especially when it comes to Israel (not so much a state issue).

There are only two Jewish candidates in the running, and both of them are vying to be attorney general: Sen. Eric Schneiderman and Assemblyman Richard Brodsky.

Former Gov. Eliot Spitzer, as you’ll recall, aspired to be the first Jewish president, although he really isn’t practicing and married outside the faith.

AG Andrew Cuomo is Catholic and, as Maggie Haberman noted, picked a Catholic (Rochester Mayor Robert Duffy) as his preferred LG running mate.
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