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Albany scrambles to replace the AG
Sometimes, Albany’s dysfunction can work to the public’s advantage.
Take the infighting and high intrigue over whether the State Legislature should name a replacement to fill the remaining seven months of disgraced Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman’s term.
State law dictates that the vote be taken in a joint meeting of the Assembly and Senate, which means Democrats dominate and Speaker Carl Heastie can call the shots. This is what happened when former Speaker Sheldon Silver — now on a retrial on federal public corruption charges — chose Assemb. Tom DiNapoli of Long Island to be the next state comptroller. The vacancy was created by the resignation of Alan Hevesi, who pleaded guilty to a felony and resigned Dec. 22, 2006, just days before he was to be sworn in for a third term.
The difference in timing — seven months as opposed to a full four years — is cited by Republicans and those Democrats who oppose a temporary replacement. All are aligned in the fear it would clear the field and give that person an edge on the Democratic nomination, if not the job. So state Republicans, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, rivals all, seem to be aligned in stopping an appointment.
“I don’t think anyone should be handpicked,” said John Flanagan, the Senate majority leader.
State Democratic Party officials would like to review the field, but a minority person, a woman or someone with both attributes, would be a strategic addition to their statewide ticket, which so far includes Cuomo, Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul and DiNapoli. A minority person or woman from the Democrats’ progressive wing would likely stop a primary challenger for attorney general from that contingent, which is supporting Cynthia Nixon for governor and City Council member Jumaane Williams for lieutenant governor.
Cuomo would prefer someone more in sync with his agenda than a rival for influence. And de Blasio, who doesn’t get along with Cuomo, needs an ally in Albany. What they all need is time.
Heastie, however, in an extraordinary moment of power, is interested in making an appointment. His current top choice: New York City Public Advocate Letitia James.
As for the public, its best interests are often served by Albany doing nothing.
Leenocchio? Pino-Lee-o? Pinocch-Zee-oh?
Nope, Lake Grove activist Ruth Cohen, 79, is going with “Zeenocchio Day” as the branding for a Saturday event in Port Jefferson to paint Rep. Lee Zeldin as a dishonest politician who she feels too often supports Donald Trump and too rarely acts in the best interests of his constituents.
Zeldin has not been popular with liberals on Long Island, and his detractors have mushroomed in number and multiplied their efforts in the age of Trump.
One group, Let’s Visit Lee Zeldin, has nearly 4,000 members in its closed Facebook group and has been able to create a fair amount of public aggravation for the Shirley Republican, often allying with other local progressive groups. The angry audiences have drowned out his points as they shout out their own at public events. Zeldin has largely moved away from big public appearances and focuses on meeting with small groups at events like his mobile office hours.
Cohen has been making signs and posters for her rally to be held from noon to 2 p.m. at the ferry terminal on the waterfront. But she says she doesn’t know how many anti-Zeldin folks will attend.
“Almost no one has replied, but that’s par for the course,” Cohen wrote in an email Tuesday, adding that she has publicized it via local bulletin boards, news releases to local media and reminders online. “People usually just show up. I’m confident that they will on Saturday.”
If they do, she’ll have plenty of posters. She’s made 36 so far.
“My children ask me why I am continually getting involved in politics, and I tell them, ‘It’s either that or mah-jongg,’ ” Cohen said.
Monday’s bombshell New Yorker article has forced a revisiting of New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman’s political past. In the article, for example, multiple victims allege that he choked them. In 2010, the then-state senator worked to outlaw similar behavior, sponsoring legislation that made intentional strangulation and suffocation a violent felony.
The legislation came in the wake of charges against then-State Sen. Hiram Monserrate, convicted in 2009 of assaulting his girlfriend. It was supported by the Sanctuary for Families’ Center for Battered Women’s Legal Services and the New York City chapter of the National Organization for Women, leaders of which wrote a New York Times op-ed praising Schneiderman’s bill.
Schneiderman held a news conference on March 16, 2010 urging colleagues to close what was seen as a loophole in state law. The legislation “sends a strong message that we must do everything in our power to ensure that no one is immune from accountability for committing such a heinous crime,” Schneiderman said in a statement at the time.
Video of a Codes Committee meeting that day chaired by Sen. Schneiderman shows the motion was hardly discussed. Instead, an often-smiling Schneiderman and colleagues joke about floor debates for other issues, and go back and forth about legislation regarding the use of live fish for pedicures. Perhaps he should have spent more time on the issue: his legislation could provide one of the criminal charges brought against him.