Democratic attorney general candidates hold final debate
NEW YORK (AP) — The four Democratic candidates for New York attorney general on Thursday held what is likely their final debate before the Sept. 13 primary, touting their qualifications and experience while tackling issues on corruption, voting rights, and economic inequality.
The debate at the history-steeped Cooper Union, a private college where Abraham Lincoln and Barack Obama spoke when they were presidential candidates, was moderated by former federal prosecutor Preet Bharara and WNYC host Brian Lehrer. The primary winner will face Republican Keith Wofford in the general election.
As expected, Republican President Donald Trump and fighting corruption were the candidate’s favored topics.
“I’m running for attorney general because Donald is a clear and present danger, because he’s a crook and a bigot and he has his bull’s eye on New York,” U.S. Rep. Sean Patrick Malone said. “I also believe that corruption is a top priority for anyone seeking to do this job.”
Maloney represents Hudson Valley and is the first openly gay congressman from New York. He is also running for re-election to Congress but will step aside if he secures the Democratic attorney general nomination.
Law professor and liberal activist Zephyr Teachout recently gained momentum with the endorsement of The New York Times. She described herself as an anti-corruption expert, a voting rights expert and an independent who will take on Albany.
“We need to actually clean house in New York State,” Teachout said. “We cannot afford to continue to have crisis after crisis of corruption and that’s going to take a truly independent attorney general.”
Teachout also took swipes at Maloney after filing a lawsuit against him alleging that his $1.4 million contribution from his federal committee for Congress into his state committee for Attorney General violated New York campaign limits.
“That lawsuit was brought this afternoon and it was thrown out nine minutes later,” Maloney argued.
“I do think as a lawyer you should know the difference between a case being thrown out and going forward,” Teachout countered.
New York City Public Advocate Letitia James, who was endorsed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and has the backing of the Democratic Party in New York, talked of helping people of color and fighting discrimination.
“The law has been the firmest pillar of our democracy and right now are democracy is under attack and when you’re under attack as I have consistently said, you got to stand up and you got to fight back, but you got to fight back with a leader, and that’s me,” James said.
Leecia Eve, an attorney and former aide to Hillary Clinton and Cuomo, stressed her litigation chops.
“I’ve got what it takes to be a fierce and effective advocate for all New Yorkers because I know how to, not just fight, but how to win,” Eve said in her opening remarks. “My roots in this state run deep. I’ve got more court room experience, no one is even close.”
In a lighter moment, Bharara, who was fired after refusing the Trump administration’s request for resignations from its predecessor’s appointees, asked the candidates to identify the author of the anonymous New York Times opinion piece criticizing Trump.
“Now I know who it is, I just want to see if you know who it is,” Bharara joked.