Attorney General

Dem County Chair: ‘Insiders’ Shouldn’t Manipulate AG Ballot

AG Andrew Cuomo’s reported effort to influence the selection of a Democratic candidate to run for the office he’ll vacate is not sitting well with at least one supporter of an AG contender who is not benefitting from Cuomo’s support.

Montgomery County Democratic Chairwoman Bethany Schumann-McGhee sent an e-mail to state committee members today after reading Nick Confessore’s account of Cuomo’s push on behalf of Nassau County DA Kathleen Rice, expressing her concern over the suggestion that the convention process is “being manipulated to benefit one candidate.”

Schumann-McGhee, who has endorsed Eric Dinallo for AG, was careful not to call out Cuomo, specifically, preferring instead to lay the blame at the feet of a “handful of insiders,” (who are, of course, presumably doing the AG’s bidding).

She also played the “upstate” card, which is something about which party leaders are particularly sensitive, since is currently just one upstater on the statewide ticket: US Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand.
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WFP Affiliates Push Schneiderman For Row E

Key stakeholders in the Working Families Party have sent a letter to fellow committee members on behalf of Sen. Eric Schneiderman, calling him the “only choice” to receive the labor-backed party’s endorsement in the AG’s race.

The letter is signed by Citizens Action’s Karen Scharff, 1199’s George Gresham, 32BJ’s Mike Fishman, 52nd AD District Leader Dorothy Siegel (treasurer of the WFP since Mike McGuire resigned amid the whole DFS mess), and the Long Island Progressive Coalition’s Lisa Tyson – all of whom have endorsed the Manhattan Democrat’s statewide bid.

“Eric is, and always has been, a proud member of what Paul Wellstone called ‘the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party,'” the group writes.

“He’s not afraid to stand up for unions, for the rights and dignity of working people, for the critical role of the public sector in providing a social safety net and reining in the excesses of the market.”

“And he’s always been a vocal opponent of discrimination of any kind, whether it’s against people of color, women, gays, lesbians, and transgender people, immigrants, seniors or people with disabilities.”

The group plays up the whole “true progressive” angle very hard, which has become something of a hallmark of Schneiderman’s campaign.
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12 Chairs Push Donovan Past 25 Percent

Staten Island DA Dan Donovan, who launched his AG campaign last weekend and headed out for his first-ever upstate swing, has already garnered sufficient support to get him on the ballot at the GOP’s upcoming convention.

Donovan’s campaign just announced he has received endorsements from 12 GOP county chairs who together account for 27.57 percent of the weighted convention vote, putting him comfortably past the 25 percent mark necessary for ballot access.

The counties in question are: Montgomery, Erie, Niagara, Queens, Schoharie, Saratoga, Greene, Rockland County, Albany, Bronx, Kings and (Donovan’s home) Richmond.

“I am thrilled and gratified to receive the support of these 12 counties and their distinguished chairs,” said Donovan in a press release.

“New Yorkers from all parts of our state are tired of the status quo in Albany; frustrated with the dysfunction; and angry at the waste and corruption that’s become commonplace in our Capitol. It doesn’t matter if you live in Brooklyn or Buffalo, these frustrations are universal.”

“As attorney general I’ll work tirelessly to root out the corruption plaguing this state and return integrity and people’s faith back into our government.”

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Schneiderman In A Bind?

A spokesman for the Senate Democrats informed YNN’s Kaitlyn Ross all 32 members of the majority conference will be heeding Gov. David Paterson’s call to remain in Albany for five days next week in hopes of finally getting a budget deal.

Schneiderman

Ross reports the spokesman, Austin Shafran, was quite emphatic in his use of the word “all,” which would include Sen. Eric Schneiderman, the one member of the conference who has some serious skin in the convention game.

Schneiderman is one of five Democrats vying for the office AG Andrew Cuomo is expected to vacate to run for governor this fall. He’s not the only state lawmaker in the field. Assembly Richard Brodsky is running, too.

Both lawmakers would be forced to be in Albany for five days next week if Paterson makes good on his pledge to call special sessions on Thursday and Friday – convention or no convention. (The governor walked that threat back a bit after this morning’s Red Room leaders meeting).

So far, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver hasn’t said whether he will be keeping his members in Albany next week.
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Coffey Raises On Cuomo’s Wall Street Probe

Democratic AG hopful Sean Coffey sent a fundraising appeal to supporters today that references AG Andrew Cuomo’s probe of whether Wall Street banks misled credit agencies on mortgage-backed securities, citing this as “a central issue” for whomever suceeds the would-be governor as New York’s top attorney.

“I am the most qualified, prepared and willing to root out corruption in our complex financial system,” Coffey argues in the e-mail. “I am ready to deliver for you.”

The plea includes links to Coffey’s recent appearances on Bloomberg TV (during which he talked up Cuomo’s investigation, while also noting he couldn’t go into much detail because he might inherit the case) and NY1.

To demonstrate the seriousness of his campaign, Coffey, a political newcomer, said last month that he would invest $2 million of his own money in his statewide bid. He reported having $1.5 million on hand in the Jan. 15 financial filing.
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Critics Question Rice’s Drug Law Reform Record

Here are the videos that accompany my DN column today about critics of Nassau County DA Kathleen Rice accusing her of flip-flopping on a touchstone issue for liberals – Rockefeller Drug Law reform.

The first is from a May 6 AG candidates forum sponsored by Brown Memorial Baptist Church, Central Brooklyn Independent Democrats, District Leader Olanike Alabi, and the 57th Assembly District Democratic Organization.

The clip depicts Assemblyman Richard Brodsky accusing Rice of opposing drug law reform – a claim she calls a “complete falsehood.” Brodsky shoots back that he has the letter on which her name appears in opposition to the 2009 reform in his briefcase – in case anyone was interested in perusing it. (No word on if there were takers.

What Brodsky was referring to was actually a series of press releases from the state DAs Association, which vehemently opposed, and lobbied to block, drug law reform both in 2004 when the first changes were signed into law by then-Gov. George Pataki and 2009, when the latest round was included as part of Gov. David Paterson’s budget proposal.

Ironically, Republican Staten Island DA Dan Donovan, who announced his AG candidacy yesterday, headed the association at the time. Rice was on the Board of Directors.
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Coffey Comes Out Swinging For Donovan

Democratic AG hopeful Sean Coffey welcomed Staten Island DA Dan Donovan to the race today with a strongly-worded statement that deems the Republican “ill-prepared” to fight public corruption and take on Wall Street.

After a prolonged flirtation with a statewide race, Donovan formally announced his candidacy in Lower Manhattan this morning with Mayor Bloomberg by his side.

Coffey called Donovan “well intentioned,” but said his experience is limited to fighting “street crime” and insisted the state does not need a “Super DA” as its top attorney.

“Rather, our AG has a broader array of responsibilities – including protecting investors and consumers from corporate misconduct, fighting discrimination in the workplace, and defending the State’s interests in civil litigation,” Coffey said.

“Mr. Donovan’s lack of experience in these areas of the law raises serious questions. In particular, given the devastating economic consequences triggered by misconduct on Wall Street, the next AG must be able to identify, investigate and prosecute corruption in our complex financial system.

“What are Mr. Donovan’s qualifications on this critical issue? His seeming lack of prosecutorial experience against powerful financial interests would leave New York without the AG it needs to fight corruption on Wall Street and in corporate suites.”

“…I find it troubling that the Republican Party would look to someone with such limited qualifications as the possible candidate to take on the enormous responsibilities of this critical office. I look forward to a robust debate with Mr. Donovan and any Republican challenger about these and other issues facing the next Attorney General.”

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Mondello For Rice?

A reader forwarded a recent interview by the Capitol newspaper’s David Freedlander of Nassau County GOP Chairman Joe Mondello that is certain to raise some eyebrows for those keeping close watch on the Democratic AG primary.

At the very end of the piece, Freedlander asked Mondello, the former state GOP chairman, for his “take” on one of the five Democrats vying to replace AG Andrew Cuomo, Nassau County DA Kathleen Rice. The chairman responded that Rice has been an “excellent district attorney,” adding:

“I’m not supposed to say these things, but an excellent DA. As an attorney for 41 years, I can tell you, give me someone who’s got some ideas before you trash the ideas.”

“Maybe I got a little Democrat in me too from the time I lived in the city, but I’m not looking to trash ideas before that have a chance to be screened and see what’s going on. The few times I’ve been with Kathleen Rice, she’s impressed me very favorably. In my opinion, she’ll win the seat.”

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Brooklyn For Rice, Manhattan For Schneiderman

The Brooklyn Democratic Party has, as recently predicted by its chairman, Assemblyman Vito Lopez, voted to endorse Nassau County DA Kathleen Rice for AG, while Rice’s primary opponent, Sen. Eric Scheniderman, has landed the support of his home county organization, Manhattan.

Brooklyn is worth 9.14 percent of the weighted convention vote.

Rice has already been endorsed by Nassau and Suffolk counties, and might be on her way to landing Queens, too. If she does, she’ll be well past the 25 percent mark necessary to get onto the ballot.

Manhattan is the big prize of the weighted vote contest, as it accounts for the largest share – 10.03 percent.

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O’Donnell For Rice

Denise O’Donnell is taking a pass on a second attempt at the AG’s office this year and will back Nassau County DA Katheen Rice – now the lone woman in the field – instead, a source familiar with her plans confirmed.

The Buffalo Democrat will formally announce her decision today at a press conference at 2:30 p.m. on the City Hall steps in Manhattan.

O’Donnell resigned her post as Gov. David Paterson’s public safety czar in February in the wake of the David Johnson domestic violence scandal, which theoretically freed her up to raise campaign cash and woo Democratic leaders.

But she would have had to work very hard to catch up with her primary opponents, who have been campaigning – albeit quietly, since AG Andrew Cuomo has yet to formally say he’s not seeking re-election – for months now.
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