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State Republicans see opportunity in AG race this fall

There are two candidates who have declared and several others whose names are being considered by party leaders.

Republicans are more optimistic about this fall's race

Republicans are more optimistic about this fall's race for attorney general after the resignation last week of Eric T. Schneiderman, seen Jan. 25. Credit: Charles Eckert

ALBANY — The startling resignation of Eric T. Schneiderman has opened up the Republican field for state attorney general, in addition to the Democratic one.

A week ago, before Schneiderman resigned, there were no announced Republican candidates for the job. Now there are two who have declared and several others whose names are being considered by party leaders.

To be sure, New York is heavily Democratic; and no Republican has won a statewide contest since then-Gov. George Pataki in 2002. But suddenly, the GOP is much more optimistic about its chances for winning this down-ballot race.

“Does it create opportunity? Of course it does,” said Suffolk County Republican chairman John Jay LaValle. “The scene has changed quite substantially. You had a sitting attorney general with a lot of money in the bank and considerable name recognition. Now, we have an open seat.”

Schneiderman, the two-term incumbent Democrat, announced his resignation Monday, about three hours after The New Yorker magazine revealed that four women had accused him of choking, slapping and threatening them.

The then-attorney general initially denied the accusations, while saying he had engaged in consensual “role-playing” with women. Later, Schneiderman said he was resigning because the accusations undermined his ability to run the office effectively.

The events set off a scramble for what is now the only open statewide elected office.

The State Legislature, which has the power to appoint a replacement, has scheduled open interviews for candidates beginning Tuesday. But because Democrats control a majority of votes, few if any Republicans are expected to participate.

Instead, the GOP is looking to settle on a nominee at its May 23-24 convention in Manhattan.

The two announced candidates are Manny Alicandro, a corporate lawyer from Brooklyn, and Thomas Humbach, the Rockland County attorney. Other names that have been floated include John Cahill (the party’s 2014 candidate), State Sen. Andrew Lanza of Staten Island, former Pataki administration official Joe Holland, and retired judge Victoria Graffeo, who served on New York’s top court.

State Sen. John DeFrancisco (R-Syracuse) has been suggested by some Republicans, though he told reporters recently he wasn’t interested.

Other names may emerge before the convention, party members say, including some from the private sector.

State Republican chairman Ed Cox said there is a “recalculation going on” about the race.

“It’s a more attractive race, because it has become a more even playing field in terms of campaign funds and name recognition,” Cox said.

Schneiderman had $8.5 million in his campaign fund, which likely would have dwarfed any amount a Republican challenger would be able to raise. Now, both sides will be fundraising “from scratch,” Cox said.

But analysts note that while the Republicans’ odds have improved, any Democrat still will be favored.

“The only real advantage that Schneiderman’s retreat gives Republicans is that it is now an open seat, and challengers always have a better chance when going up against a nonincumbent,” Lawrence Levy, executive dean of Hofstra University’s National Center for Suburban Studies, said. “Other than that, there’s a rising ‘blue’ tide in the state, and it’s a really hard swim for any Republican candidate statewide.”

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