ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — State lawmakers held a second round of interviews of candidates for New York attorney general Wednesday more than a week after Eric Schneiderman abruptly resigned over allegations of sexual abuse.
Some of the hopefuls were asked why they consider themselves more qualified than the acting attorney general, Barbara Underwood, who is considered the favorite to be appointed interim attorney general to serve out the remainder of the Democrat’s term.
The process began Tuesday with a bipartisan legislative committee interviewing six candidates, including Underwood. Another five were interviewed Wednesday, with a sixth failing to show up. They included two private practice lawyers with military or government experience, a county attorney, an administrative law judge and a lawyer-businessman.
None has the legal profession experience or the name recognition now enjoyed by Underwood, the state’s No. 2 legal officer who found herself suddenly thrust into the spotlight after Schneiderman stepped down. Underwood led off Tuesday’s first round of interviews, telling lawmakers that if she’s appointed attorney general she won’t run for the office in November.
Lawmakers conducting the interviews praised her lengthy legal career and public service, then asked some of the other candidates how they measured up to Underwood. Some said they couldn’t, while others stressed how they would strive to keep the attorney general’s office independent from the governor’s office.
“If there is wrongdoing … I’ll investigate and take appropriate action,” said Michael Diederich of Rockland County, who spent 29 years as a U.S. Army lawyer.
Schneiderman officially resigned May 8, a day after The New Yorker magazine reported allegations by four women that he physically and verbally abused them while dating. He has denied the allegations and is no longer running for a third term.
The Legislature has the authority under state law to appoint an attorney general should the position become vacant. It’s likely the Legislature won’t make a decision before next week’s Democratic state convention, when the party is expected to nominate a candidate for attorney general.
Several other potential candidates have stayed out of the interview process. They include Zephyr Teachout, whom Gov. Andrew Cuomo defeated in the 2014 Democratic gubernatorial primary, and state Sen. Michael Gianaris, a Queens Democrat. New York City Public Advocate Letitia James, a Democrat who also stayed out of the interviews, announced Wednesday in Brooklyn that she’s running for attorney general.
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