The state Republican Party on Thursday made Manhattan lawyer Keith Wofford its first African-American nominee for attorney general in an election the party considers a rare opportunity to win the office.
An unusual floor vote gave Wofford the nod at the party convention in Manhattan, with about 70 percent of the weighted vote going to him over Joe Holland, another Manhattan lawyer. Both men are Buffalo natives and African-American Republicans who graduated from Harvard Law School.
“My top priority . . . is going to go after public corruption, wherever it leads,” Wofford said. “The attorney general needs to be truly independent.”
He said Democrats have turned the state into “the most corrupt and most anti-business state in the nation,” adding that he would use the attorney general’s office to reverse course.
“Let’s send someone to Albany who actually knows how to do the job,” he said.
Holland, the runner-up, did win enough support among delegates to demand that he be placed on the ballot for a September primary.
“This is a milestone for the Republican Party,” Holland said of the contest between him and Wofford. He said he would continue to work against what he called the unfair stereotype that the GOP doesn’t represent minorities.
Nassau County Republicans supported Wofford, while Suffolk County backed Holland, but the historic opportunity wasn’t lost on either camp.
“Three weeks ago the political world was shocked by the news of the resignation of the disgraced Attorney General Eric Schneiderman,” Erie County Republican chairman Nicholas Langworthy said in his nomination speech. He said Wofford would be able, as President Donald Trump has promised in Washington, to “drain the swamp” in Albany.
“We don’t want another attorney general that opens 100 frivolous lawsuits against the president of the United States,” Langworthy said. He was referring to Schneiderman’s many legal actions against the Trump administration, aimed at policies on the environment and immigrants.
Suffolk County Republican chairman John Jay LaValle, who nominated Holland, urged the party to use its support of an African-American candidate to try to bring more New York voters into its fold. Democrats now hold a better than 2 to 1 voter enrollment advantage.
The Democrats have nominated an African-American woman for attorney general: New York City Public Advocate Tish James, who is endorsed by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.
Republicans say they are optimistic that Schneiderman’s abrupt resignation earlier this month after women accused him of abuse and assault presents a rare opportunity to take the office. Republicans haven’t held the office since 1998, under Dennis Vacco of Buffalo.
For comptroller, the party endorsed Jonathan Trichter, a former Democratic operative who joined the Republican Party during his campaign. He will face Democratic Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli of Great Neck Plaza, who has been in office for 11 years.