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Amid a rare opportunity, GOP struggles over attorney general

The state party chairman has endorsed Manhattan lawyer Keith Wofford, but other candidates are vying for the nomination.

Ed Cox, chairman of the New York Republican

Ed Cox, chairman of the New York Republican State Committee, speaks at the New York Delegation breakfast at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, on Monday, July 18, 2016. Photo Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams Jr.

NEW YORK — Halfway through their nominating convention Wednesday, state Republicans were still unsure who to nominate for attorney general to attempt to seize on the abrupt resignation of two-term Democrat Eric T. Schneiderman this month.

State Republican Chairman Ed Cox and the party’s nominee for governor, Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro, sought to bring some order to the process Wednesday by endorsing Manhattan lawyer Keith H. Wofford.

However, Wall Street lawyer Manny Alicandro said he has lined up the endorsements of several county Republican chairmen and he’s willing to enter a Republican primary in September. The GOP usually tries to avoid the divisiveness and cost of primaries.

In addition, other potential candidates were buttonholing delegates after Molinaro was nominated on Wednesday. The committee may simply choose a designee, rather than a nominee, who would compete with other Republicans who petition their way onto the primary ballot.

“We have several candidates for it,” said Cox, who rarely endorses candidates before a delegate vote. “Keith Wofford has my support and he has the support of Marc Molinaro. . . . Keith Wofford has tremendous talents.”

“He comes from Buffalo, his father worked in the Chevrolet factory there, he pulled himself by his bootstraps with a scholarship to Harvard, Harvard Law School and came down here and has just done a great job as a lawyer.”

“We need a professional attorney general, not just what they say is an ‘aspiring governor,’ which unfortunately we’ve had too many attorney generals in the past who wanted to be governor and it was all about their prestige and power. And we just had one crash and burn.”

That was Schneiderman, who after two terms resigned hours after The New Yorker reported claims by four women that he abused and assaulted them. The shock set off three weeks of scrambling by Republicans as well as Democrats.

A likely GOP nominee, John Cahill, bowed out just before the convention. Cahill is the former chief of staff to Gov. George Pataki and had lost to Schneiderman four years ago.

The contest is so uncertain that the attorney general candidates will meet with delegates at a special breakfast Thursday before the final day of the GOP convention begins.

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