It's a Free Country is partnering with the Personal Democracy Forum in the 10 Questions project. We're asking you to submit questions for the candidates in this Fall's elections, many of whom have pledged to provide answer. We thought we'd ask some of the regular IAFC contributors to write about what they would ask the candidates - you can submit your own questions, browse others, and vote on your favorites here.
Many of the questions State Sen. Eric Schneiderman will have to answer as he emerges from the Democratic attorney general primary are ones that were put to him by his fellow Democratic candidates, and have now been taken up Staten Island District Attorney Dan Donovan, the Republican nominee. He dismissed them as issues so far, but whether the New York general electorate—which is much larger and more diverse than the interest-group driven base Schneiderman successfully mobilized in an ultra-low turn-out primary—will let him may decide who becomes the next attorney general of the state.
1. While he distinguished himself for some reform efforts, Schneiderman has also been party to many less savory decisions in the Legislature. At a moment when people are disgusted with state government, why should people elevate a person who has been part of the Albany system?
2. Eric Dinallo, the former insurance superintendent and attorney general candidate, stated repeatedly during the primary campaign that Schneiderman, as a member of the Senate leadership, might very well be conflicted out of investigating the State Senate. Can Schneiderman produce a strong legal opinion from outside his campaign to rebut this?
3. Schneiderman has never prosecuted a case, though he was in private practice before running for Senate. Is the lack of this experience and the perspective this provides on the law something New Yorkers should overlook?
4. Andrew Cuomo had not practiced law for years before he was elected attorney general in 2006, but made the case that managing a large staff at HUD had taught him how to set goals and ensure their executions. What administrative experience would Schneiderman bring to the job of running what is essentially a 700-person law firm?
5. Schneiderman has regularly cited his time as a deputy sheriff who worked in law enforcement. This post-college job was actually teaching, writing grant proposals and administering a drug treatment program in a small jail. Is he prepared to stand by this definition of “law enforcement” in a general election as he did in the primary?
6. During the primary and now the first few days of the general election, Schneiderman talked often about being pro-choice. In what ways does he believe that laws permitting abortion are actually under threat in New York, and how does that pertain to the attorney general’s office?
7. After initially not signing Andrew Cuomo’s reform pledge, Schneiderman did so in the closing days of the primary. Now that he has signed, how will Schneiderman prove to voters that as attorney general, he would be sufficiently independent of Cuomo, who is expected to win the governor’s race?
8. Schneiderman has never been much involved with Wall Street, but has begun to make the issue a centerpiece of his general election campaign. As he pummels Donovan for not being sufficiently strong on financial prosecutions, what can he bring to voters to prove that he has these credentials himself?
9. Schneiderman self-financed $850,000 of his primary campaign. Will he release his full financial information so that voters can have a better sense of the source of his campaign funding?
10. Eliot Spitzer defined himself as attorney general through his financial industry prosecutions. Andrew Cuomo defined himself through his student loan and pension fund prosecutions. What would Schneiderman hope to define himself by?
Edward-Isaac Dovere is the founding editor of City Hall & The Capitol. He is, despite brief stays in Baltimore and Chicago, a lifelong New Yorker.
(Disclosure: Schneiderman’s father Irwin Schneiderman, who has been a significant donor to his son’s campaign, is a long-time member of the WNYC Board of Trustees and has been a generous donor to the station over the years.)