During the Democratic primary campaign for attorney general, there was a kerfuffle over whether Letitia James, the New York City public advocate and primary frontrunner, was trying to appeal to business interests when she said she didn’t want to be the “sheriff of Wall Street,” the title that one-time AG Elliot Spitzer wore with pride. James rushed to clarify what she meant: She still wanted to crack down on corporate interests, she said, she simply wanted a title all her own.
Keith Wofford, the bankruptcy lawyer who is the Republican candidate for attorney general, rejects both that title and that orientation. To him, the state’s business climate has been poisoned by overreach by the attorney general’s office, which has used flimsy evidence and a powerful law (the Martin Act) to wage high-profile witch hunts that extracted money from innocent firms that went not to victims, but to the state itself.
It’s unclear that voters will be moved to much sympathy for payday lenders, banks that helped upend the housing market, and investment houses operating “dark pools”–some of the targets for action by former AG Eric Schneiderman–but Wofford certainly presents an alternative to the vision for the AG’s office proposed by James, the Democratic nominee. Some commentators have faulted Democrats for positioning the AG as a bulwark to Donald Trump; in a shift that would be at least as ambitious, Wofford would use the AG’s power to create a sort of help-desk for small businesses.
A face-to-face debate between these two (and perhaps another one also involving Green candidate Michael Sussman, Libertarian Chris Garvey and Reform Party nominee Nancy Sliwa) would present some pretty clear choices to voters. Right now, it’s unclear that will happen.
Hear the full show below or listen just to our talk with Wofford or Libertarian gubernatorial candidate Larry Sharpe.
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