Schneiderman resignation shuffles the deck

We live in a time when news, real news, flies by us at warp speed. It is often hard to digest and analyze a story before the next big one comes along.

That being said, the Eric Schneiderman story that broke yesterday must have set some sort of record. The New Yorker article appeared online at about 6:45 pm. Schneiderman resigned by about 10 pm. Gee, there was hardly any time for other pols to call for him to resign before the deal broke.

Schneiderman may be gone but his legal problems might not be. Here’s an incredible bit of irony (make that a double dose of irony): His office has just begun an investigation into the work of Manhattan DA Cyrus Vance, Jr. for Vance’s handling of a Harvey Weinstein matter. Yesterday Vance announced that his office would start an investigation into Schneiderman’s case.

All this is amazing. During the past twelve years the governor, state comptroller, and attorney general have resigned in disgrace. The Speaker of the Assembly and Majority Leader of the Senate were removed along with many members of the state legislature.

The timing of all this adds to the political intrigue. Section 41 of the Public Officers Law provides that a vacancy in the office of attorney general shall be filled fill by joint ballot of the State Senate and the State Assembly. Given that Democrats far outnumber Republicans in the Legislature, an appointment to the office will be a Democrat. The law does not provide a timeframe for when such an appointment must be made.

Article IV of the State Constitution provides that the qualifications for the office of attorney general shall be the same as that for governor, lieutenant governor and comptroller, namely: United States citizenship; at least 30 years of age; and a resident of the state for at least five years.

There are at least a dozen names already floating out there for an interim appointment – more on that follows. How quickly the Legislature might want to act on an appointment is unknown at this time.

Complicating matters a bit more, the Democratic State Committee is scheduled to meet on May 23 and 24 on Long Island to select its candidates for governor, lieutenant governor, comptroller and attorney general. There has already been some confusion about whether Governor Andrew Cuomo wants Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul to run for another term. Now there is another spot on the party ticket that is up in the air.

Would there be some coordination between who the Legislature might appoint on an interim basis, and who the state party would designate as their candidate for attorney general, or would they go their separate ways? Would it even matter?

In 1994 a vacancy in the office of attorney general occurred when Robert Abrams resigned. The Legislature appointed Assemblyman Oliver Koppell, who then lost a primary to Karen Burstein. Burstein lost the general election to Dennis Vacco.

So whoever the Legislature might appoint, or whoever the State Democratic Committee might designate, the process of selecting the next elected attorney general is not going to be resolved anytime soon. One simple solution would be for the Legislature to appoint an interim AG who would not run for the office, and then let the party convention and the September primary sort things out.

The Republicans, by the way, have been focusing on Manny Alicandro, an attorney from Manhattan, as their AG candidate.

Here is a list compiled by Politico of potential Democratic candidates, in alphabetical order: Preet Bharara, Jeff Dinowitz, Mike Gianaris, Kathy Hochul, Brad Hoylman, Letitia James, Todd Kaminsky, Joe Lentol, Stephanie Miner, Danny O’Donnell, Kathleen Rice and Helene Weinstein. Bob McCarthy reports in the Buffalo News that Leecia Eve of Buffalo is also a potential candidate.

Hochul continues to say that she wants to stand for re-election for lieutenant governor, maneuvering by the governor’s team notwithstanding. Erie County Democratic Chairman Jeremy Zellner notes that Hochul does not have a law license in New York State, although she is a law school graduate. But as noted above, the qualifications for attorney general are pretty simple and Hochul qualifies.

An intense Democratic primary is likely. If he chooses to run it would seem that Preet Bharara would be the odds-on favorite, even though he has never run for office and currently has no political organization in place. If he won Donald Trump would have reason to be nervous, but so would lots of other politicians in New York State.

For Republicans who might be cheering Schneiderman’s demise, I would suggest that any and all Democratic candidates for New York AG will promote an aggressive approach to any investigations into Donald Trump and Michael Cohen that have already begun or that may occur in the future.

Being a state attorney general these days can certainly be a major challenge and a great opportunity for any ambitious politician. So, let the games begin.

A historical footnote

The suggestion about Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul being mentioned as a possible candidate for attorney general brings to mind a story that former Erie County and New York State Democratic Chairman Joe Crangle told me and countless others a couple or more times over the years.

In 1966, in Joe’s second year as county chairman, the New York State Democratic Party held its nominating convention in Buffalo’s Memorial Auditorium. It was the last such convention. By 1970 the party began choosing its statewide candidates by primary election.

Frank Sedita was Mayor of Buffalo at the time and he had an interest in being the party’s candidate for lieutenant governor. Joe gave it a shot, but the New York City pols who controlled the convention wanted to run Howard Samuels for lieutenant governor on a ticket with Frank O’Connor. They suggested to Crangle that Sedita should instead run for attorney general against incumbent Republican Louis Lefkowitz. Crangle had to go back to Sedita to break the news.

Which he did as follows: “Mayor, wouldn’t you rather be a general than a lieutenant?” To which Mayor Sedita replied, “yes, I would rather be a general.” And so it went.

Throwing people under the bus, in Washington and Albany; candidate transparency

In the political world we now live in there are certain personal characteristics that seem to have blossomed. Forgive me for using a pretty word for it, since the blossoming in this case is the type that leads to dandelions, crab grass and poison ivy.

Last Saturday’s performance by comedian Michelle Wolf at the White House Correspondents Dinner certainly hit a nerve with many people. Margaret Sullivan, former editor of the Buffalo News and currently the media columnist for the Washington Post, had an excellent article yesterday suggesting that for the sake of journalism the Correspondents Dinner should be discontinued. I am no fan of Sarah Huckabee Sanders, but the personal attacks on Sanders by Wolf were offensive. Continue reading

What does it mean to be a conservative in Donald Trump’s Republican Party?

As time goes on it is clear that the Republican Party is now really the Donald Trump Party. Large majorities of affiliated and leaning Republicans support Trump strongly, either because they really, really believe in what he says and does, no matter what; or in the case of many Republican elected officials, because they are really, really afraid of what the Trump base might do to them if they challenge Trump. Continue reading

Emails from Elizabeth and Devin; some observations and heard-on-the-streets

We all get on a variety of email listservs over time. We might sign up for some of them, but many are just a waste of time.

If you’re in to following politics the emails can turn into a flood. From the various media outlets there are dozens of newsletters. Very few of them write original content. Most are aggregators of news and opinion pieces from other sources, and they generally overlap with one another. If you read one of the sites you can probably pass on reading 90 percent of the others available daily. Continue reading

What if Donald Trump owned the Buffalo Bills instead of being President of the United States?

Every week of the Trump administration brings new excitement. Not the kind of excitement that you can enjoy. More like the excitement of hundred foot drop of a roller coaster that might make you a bit sick.

As Trump jettisons some of the more intelligent and stable members of his administration we are being told by the pundits that he is “unshackled” from John Kelly, aiming to do and say as he pleases. So fasten your seat beats.

What we are talking about here is basically the fate of the United States and the world. But what if Trump’s act was played out on a more important stage for many residents of Western New York? What if, instead of being President of the United States, Trump instead was the owner of the Buffalo Bills? Continue reading

“Purity” in politics and how it plays into the 2018 elections

Conor Lamb’s apparent special election victory in Pennsylvania’s 18th congressional district is stunning. A district that has regularly sent Republicans to Congress; a district that gave Donald Trump a 20 point victory 16 months ago; a slam-dunk district that the Republicans spent more than $10 million trying to hold on to – falls to a Democratic first-time candidate. The blue wave moves on. Continue reading

If Giambra follows through with a Reform party candidacy he could rearrange the ballot in New York State; some observations on Trump and Salvatore

As elections go, the 2018 campaign for governor of New York is not off to what you might call a rip roaring start. Governor Andrew Cuomo has seen a drop in his poll ratings, and some are attributing that to the corruption trial of Joseph Percoco and others that has for the past several weeks put the seamier side of government and politics in Albany on display. Whether a trial with no conclusion will do additional political damage to Cuomo remains to be seen. Continue reading