SCENARIOS-Possible outcomes in NY attorney general race

September 10, 2010

By Basil Katz

NEW YORK, Sept 10 (Reuters) – As New York state prepares to elect its next attorney general, an office made nationally prominent for cracking down on Wall Street before the financial crisis erupted, five Democrats will face off in the primary on Tuesday to select who will run against the sole Republican.

Despite the powerful post’s “Sheriff of Wall Street” notoriety, voters are apathetic about the Democratic primary race. An August poll showed 81 percent of registered Democrats said they were undecided or not going to vote.

Following are possible scenarios as New Yorkers go the polls for the Sept. 14 primary and then the Nov. 2 election.


Schneiderman, 55, is considered the most left-leaning of the candidates and some experts see him as the front-runner in the primary. Schneiderman’s proposals for the attorney general office resemble many of those of the other candidates. For example, most of contenders say the office needs more power to probe public corruption. Schneiderman highlights the need for ethics reform and his concerns for low-income voters though he opposed a proposal to tax hedge fund residents who live out of state.


Rice, 45, a former Brooklyn prosecutor, won her first election in 2005 when she became Nassau County’s District Attorney. Emphasizing a kitchen-table approach to the job, she says she wants to be the “people’s lawyer.” Critics point to her lack of experience at the state or national level. As attorney general, she can be expected to weigh in on a broad set of issues such as gay marriage, the economy and education in an effort to broaden the position and distance it from its Wall Street enforcer image.


Coffey, 54, a private lawyer and former federal prosecutor in New York, says he has the most experience on Wall Street and understands markets better than the other candidates. His tenure would likely maintain the post’s “Sheriff of Wall Street” attitude but with a softer tone and a more positive working relationship with federal regulators, whom Coffey says he already knows.


Both are considered outliers in the primary race. They highlight their near-wonkish expertise — state agencies for Dinallo, political institutions for Brodsky.

Dinallo, a former assistant to Eliot Spitzer when he was attorney general, said he worked on some of the biggest and most successful cases and has a vision for a post credit-crunch Wall Street, a world that requires different tools and a more long-term approach. He has not differentiated himself sufficiently from the other candidates and his association to Spitzer, who resigned from the governorship in disgrace, might hurt him with voters.

Brodsky is candid, at times too much, and does not seem to have the funds to overtake the other candidates. He has been painted as an insider, having served in the state Assembly for over two decades, an association that might disadvantage him with a public disgusted with politics in the capital, Albany.


The best thing that could happen to Dan Donovan, Staten Island’s 53-year-old District Attorney, would be a Schneiderman win in the primary. Running against Schneiderman would allow Donovan to attack the Democrat’s decidedly liberal views on issues such as dealing with sex offenders or potentially scaring away financial investment by beating down on Wall Street.

Donovan’s low-key approach might falter as he faces issues he opposes such as gay marriage, or the proposed Islamic center near the site of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks in Manhattan. It is highly unlikely the overwhelmingly Democratic state would choose a Republican for such a high post, especially in a low-crime year.

(Additional reporting by Grant McCool, Joan Gralla, Mark Egan, Edith Honan and Daniel Trotta, Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)

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