By now you've likely heard that the top legal post was left vacant following stunning allegations that former (as of last week) attorney general Eric Schneiderman was physically abusive to past girlfriends. The ink was barely dry on the expose before Schneiderman resigned, maintaining his innocence, of course.
Barbara Underwood, who has served in the attorney general's office for more than a decade, is filling the post until the state legislature can make an appointment.
Underwood has said that she will not run for the post this fall, and it's looking increasingly likely that she will keep the seat warm until then.
But it's not necessarily because she is the best candidate, although her credentials are highly regarded, but rather because the dozen or so candidates who have expressed interest in the job have determined it wise to steer clear of getting involved in the state legislature's process to select a replacement.
Sure, getting into the attorney general's office now would potentially give a person an advantage in the September 13th primary, thanks to being an incumbent and having a record – even if it is limited – to run on.
But given the climate of corruption in Albany, that advantage would be overshadowed by the appearance of making a backroom deal with the state legislature to get the post.
Better to run with no record and on your own merit rather than try to appeal to voters with the stink of Albany attached to your campaign.
That's why Public Advocate Letitia James, who many thought had the job locked up after rumors began circulating that she was working behind the scenes to shore up support from state elected officials, has decided to pull her name from the running...for now.
It's also why former U.S. attorney general Preet Bharara won't be considered. (Although, given all of the state legislators he took down during his time in office, Albany pols probably didn't want him so close to the action.)
But it's also why State Senator Michael Gianaris, representatives Kathleen Rice and Sean Patrick Maloney, and Alphonso David, a council to Governor Andrew Cuomo, to name a few, don't want to be considered for the appointment to the post.
“In the coming days and weeks, I will continue speaking with my supporters and other interested New Yorkers as I decide whether to seek election to the Attorney General's office this year,” read a statement from Gianaris. “This is a critical time in New York and a decision that deserves careful thought. As a result, I will not be participating in the expedited legislative selection process next week.”
Translation: he's running in September.
In fact, it appears the new strategy to get your name in the public conversation about running for attorney general is to announce you aren't interested in being considered by the state legislature for the post.
We came across a news soundbite this week that former north Brooklyn councilman David Yassky is also pulling his name for consideration by the state legislature. Was anybody even talking about Yassky as a potential candidate?
For the record, Pol Position has also asked to be pulled from consideration as an interim attorney general. This requires careful consideration, and we will be making a decision on whether to run in the coming months.
So, at least in this case, it appears that the controversy of putting a political appointee into elected office is greater than the desire to assume the post.
In this case.
Don't expect it to stop party heads from hand-picking their own choices to fill vacant seats through special elections, a far more common practice. Or their chosen candidates to turn down the appointment in favor of a competitive primary.