Is There a Democratic Way to be Attorney General?

Welcome to Politics Bites, where every afternoon at It's A Free Country, we bring you the unmissable quotes from political conversations on WNYC. On the Brian Lehrer Show today, Democratic candidate for New York Attorney General argued why he should be the state's top law enforcement position. Last week, Republican candidate Dan Donovan made his case.

Eric Schneiderman, who has represented upper Manhattan and Riverdale in the state Senate since 1998 told Brian Lehrer listeners that despite being a member of the oft-criticized Albany legislature, he is the candidate most capable of fighting political corruption.

I've been a leader in forming the reform movement that is trying to bring about changes in Albany. I wrote some of the most sweeping ethics bills to pass the state and reform the rules of the Senate and chaired the only committee in modern history that expells a corrupt legislator, when we took out Hiram Monserrate. My opponent is hardly an independent-minded Republican. He is someone who never brought a public corruption case in his life, has never spoken a word about reform in Albany. I mean he's not just soft on corruption, he's absent on the issue.

Schneiderman stressed that before joining the state Senate he was a corporate attorney, unaffiliated with the Democratic establishment, in contrast to his opponent, whom he characterized as a loyalist of the Staten Island political establishment.

Responding to a question about what he meant when he told supporters of the Rev. Al Sharpton that they would have "an annex" in Albany if he were elected, Schneiderman said he was speaking metaphorically.

The point was all voices will be heard in my office. I'm going to seek to give voice to the voiceless....The fact of the matter is I have a demonstrated committment to reaching out to constituencies that really have felt voiceless...No special treatment for any group, but I was making a point that I will make a special effort to represent the people who have a hard time making their voices heard.

He also criticized Donovan for saying he did not intend to emulate the Attorney General's role as Sheriff of Wall Street, a posture Andrew Cuomo and Elliot Spitzer adopted. 

Listen, the job of Attorney General is to fight crime and corruption wherever it occurs and to be the people's lawyer, really with the view to standing up to powerful interests whether they are Democrats or Republicans, on Wall Street, in Albany or on Main Street.

Listen to the entire interview on The Brian Lehrer Show.

[Disclosure note: Eric Schneiderman's father sits on WNYC's Board of Trustees.]