Letitia James, New York City’s public advocate, triumphed in the four-way race for the Democratic nomination for New York attorney general on Thursday. James defeated Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney, attorney Leecia Eve and Zephyr Teachout, a law professor.
The first black woman to win a major party statewide nomination in New York, James is now poised to take the reins from acting Attorney General Barbara Underwood, who herself stepped into the role after Eric Schneiderman resigned in the wake of sexual misconduct allegations in May.
If she prevails in the November general election, James will become New York’s top cop and one of the most powerful law enforcement officials in the country. She will also assume responsibility for a long list of high-profile investigations and lawsuits that Underwood and Schneiderman have opened. Among them: a suit against President Donald Trump, his children and his foundation; a probe of Exxon Mobile and the investigation into the Manhattan District Attorney’s handling of accusations against Harvey Weinstein.
James owes some part of her primary victory to Governor Andrew Cuomo, who strongly backed her candidacy. Cuomo and his running mate, Kathy Hochul, both won as well on Thursday. Teachout, James’ opponent, promised, if elected, to investigate, among other things, Cuomo’s decision to move up the ceremonial opening of the Gov. Mario M. Cuomo Bridge against the advice of engineers. James has pledged more obliquely to “fight corruption no matter where it lies.”
Underwood, the state’s former solicitor general, became the first woman to hold the post when she took over after Schneiderman’s resignation. She declined to seek reelection to the position, opening the field for a diverse group of candidates to pursue the job. Two of the three female candidates who ran were black, Teachout is eight months pregnant and Maloney is openly gay.
“This campaign was really never about me, or any of the candidates who ran,” James told a jubilant throng of supporters at her victory party in Brooklyn on Thursday. “It was about the people, but most importantly it was about that man in the White House who can’t go a day without threatening our fundamental rights, can’t go a day without threatening the rights of immigrants, can’t go a day without dividing us.”
Editor’s note: This post has been updated throughout.