Republican lawyer John Cahill, left, is challenging Democratic Attorney General...

Republican lawyer John Cahill, left, is challenging Democratic Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman in the Nov. 4, 2014 election. Credit: AP; Howard Schnapp

A former state environmental chief who also oversaw redevelopment of downtown Manhattan after the 2001 World Trade Center terror attacks is trying to unseat New York's highest-ranking law enforcement officer.

Republican John Cahill, 56, former chief of staff for Gov. George Pataki, wants to be New York's next attorney general -- a post now held by Eric Schneiderman, 59, a Democrat and former state senator.

Pointing to what Schneiderman considers his strength, Cahill says that as attorney general, he would combat corruption by taking on higher-level officials than his opponent has and would create a new division to fight sexual harassment.

Schneiderman -- seeking a second term -- has pointed to his efforts to prosecute corrupt politicians, help New Yorkers at risk of foreclosure on their homes and take on big banks.

Cahill and Schneiderman are vying for a four-year term as New York's chief legal officer. The attorney general has the power to protect consumers and investors, charitable donors, the public health and environment, civil rights and the rights of wage-earners and businesses, the AG's website says.

Other responsibilities include the activities and investigations of the State Organized Crime Task Force and Medicaid Fraud Control Unit.

Schneiderman, of Manhattan, served in the state Senate representing Upper Manhattan and a portion of the Bronx from 1999 until he became attorney general in 2011. He was in private practice at the Kirkpatrick & Lockhart law firm for 15 years.

Schneiderman, a former public interest lawyer, said he has prosecuted more than 50 corrupt public officials and reached a $613 million settlement with JP Morgan Chase in connection with the housing market collapse. He has appointed regional public integrity officials to respond to complaints about local corruption.

Cahill, of Yonkers, is CEO of the Pataki-Cahill Group, a Manhattan company that advises businesses on energy and environmental issues

During the World Trade Center rebuilding, Cahill oversaw design of the Sept. 11 memorial and the Freedom Tower, the transportation infrastructure and efforts to attract businesses to Ground Zero neighborhoods. He was formerly a partner at the Plunkett & Jaffe law firm.

Cahill also says he preserved millions of acres of open space as commissioner of the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

Cahill has campaigned aggressively on the issue of public corruption.

He says Schneiderman has not gotten to the root of corruption in Albany and faults him for not speaking out when Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo shuttered the Moreland Commission, which Cuomo had formed to investigate corruption. News media reports have said Cuomo interfered with the group's work.

"The attorney general did nothing with respect to the interference of the governor's office," Cahill said.

"Our office is doing more in the area of public integrity than this office ever has," Schneiderman said, bristling at Cahill's remarks. Schneiderman said he cannot speak out while U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara is conducting "an ongoing criminal investigation" into Cuomo's actions.

Schneiderman pointed to his pursuit of former Democratic state Sen. Shirley Huntley of Queens, who pleaded guilty to evidence-tampering in connection with an investigation into the theft of a grant she sponsored for a sham nonprofit group.

Last July, William Rapfogel, a friend of Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, received 3 1/3 to 10 years in prison, after Schneiderman found he took millions of dollars in a kickback scheme while he headed the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty.

On other issues, Schneiderman supports abortion rights. While Cahill opposes them, a spokesman said he would uphold the law.

Cahill promises to provide services to combat domestic violence and sexual assault and he opposes the Common Core curriculum in the schools.

"I think I'm running to be an independent voice in Albany," Cahill said.

Schneiderman says he would continue to pursue drug trafficking noting, "The heroin epidemic is a problem in and of itself."

A recent Quinnipiac College poll put Schneiderman ahead of Cahill -- but by a smaller 12 point lead than in August when Schneiderman led by 22 points.

Mitchell Moss, a professor of urban policy and planning at the New York University Robert F. Graduate School of Public Service, said New York attorneys general have had varying agendas.

While Eliot Spitzer pursued big banks as the "sheriff of Wall Street," Moss said Cahill has a strong environmental record and might pursue that path if he wins.

Eric Lane, dean of the Hofstra University Law School, said the attorney general's office "is shaped by events, ambitions and interests. To some extent it always reflects the ambitions and personality of the person."

There are two other candidates in the race.

Bronx attorney Ramon Jimenez -- the Green Party candidate and a former senior administrative law judge for the State Workers Compensation Board -- led students and faculty members in protest over the proposed closing of Hostos Community College in the Bronx in the 1970s. Hostos survived.

Jimenez, 66, of the Bronx, said he's running because the Democrats have no blacks or Latinos running for statewide office. "The Democrats have ignored putting any blacks or Latinos on their statewide slate," Jimenez said.

He opposes official "cronyism" and policing policies he says discriminate against blacks and Latinos.

Carl Person, 78, a commercial litigation attorney who lives and works in Manhattan, is the Libertarian candidate.

Person says the state should help provide high school or correspondence course curricula that train students to administer small businesses and get high-paying jobs. He wants less regulation of business and said, "I would like to have no regulation at all of private schools."

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