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Interviews begin Tuesday for interim attorney general

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo Photo Credit: AP / Hans Pennink

ALBANY — As the State Legislature begins interviews Tuesday to fill the job of an interim attorney general until Dec. 31, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said he’s evaluating hopefuls considering a run for a full term in the fall.

The Assembly’s Democratic majority will run the two days of public interviews of candidates for the position whose duties can include investigating the legislative and executive branches. The Assembly Democrats have a numerical advantage in the legislature’s vote to appoint a successor to two-term Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.The Democrat resigned last week after four women he dated accused him of physical abuse and assault.

State Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan (R-East Northport) said his conference will participate in Tuesday’s interviews, which could spill into Wednesday. But he said no one seeking the appointment should run for the office in the fall, where they could have an incumbent’s advantage.

The public interviews will begin at 2 p.m. Tuesday and 10 a.m. Wednesday in the Hamilton Hearing Room B of the Legislative Office Building in the Empire State Plaza complex in Albany. The interviews will be streamed live on the Assembly website at http://nyassembly.gov/av/.

Meanwhile, Cuomo said he has begun talking to potential candidates who have worked for him — including his former and current counsels — about seeking a full four-year term in the September Democratic primary and in the November general election.,

“I’m going to sit down and meet with them because I want to have a substantive conversation on issues, policies, et cetera,” Cuomo told NY1 about his involvement in vetting more than a dozen candidates for the legislature’s appointment. “I’m the former attorney general . . . So I want to make sure we get the most qualified person. I’ve been talking to a number of them.”

Although Cuomo has no constitutional role in the legislature’s selection of an interim attorney general, he has publicly stated that he supports appointing acting Attorney General Barbara Underwood, his appointed solicitor general, to fill Schneiderman’s term until Dec. 31. She said she doesn’t intend to run for a full term as attorney general.

That would mean the state Democratic Committee Cuomo heads would have the opportunity to identify a leading candidate for a full term at the convention May 23-24 before the September Democratic primary.

“The governor is a control freak,” said Assemb. Charles Barron (D-Brooklyn), a frequent critic of Cuomo and Albany politics. “Now if it goes to the convention, he’ll be able to control it” because there will be no incumbent.

Republican candidate Marc Molinaro, the Dutchess County executive, slammed Cuomo’s involvement as “a gross violation of the separation of powers.” The Republican noted the attorney general’s office is investigating one of the Cuomo administration’s economic development projects that involves some developers who are also campaign contributors to Cuomo. Cuomo is not accused of wrongdoing.

“Any prospective attorney general candidate with respect for the office, separation of powers and a commitment to preserving the integrity of an ongoing legal proceeding would tell the governor where to stick his interview because the attorney general of New York doesn’t work for you,” Molinaro said.

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