State lawmakers to pick successor to attorney general

May 22, 2018

Acting Attorney General Barbara Underwood tops the list of applicants in the running to serve out Eric Schneiderman's second term through Dec. 31.

ALBANY — The state Legislature was poised to vote for the temporary successor to fill the attorney general's position Tuesday, two weeks after Erie Schneiderman suddenly resigned amid allegations he physically abused four women he dated.

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie announced that the Democrat-controlled Assembly and Republican-led Senate intend to cast a joint ballot starting at 3 p.m. Tuesday. Under state law, the full Legislature is required to vote on the attorney general's replacement should the job become vacant.

Schneiderman officially resigned two weeks ago after The New Yorker magazine reported he physically and verbally abused four women he had dated. He has denied the allegations.

Acting Attorney General Barbara Underwood, the state's solicitor general, tops the list of applicants in the running to serve out Schneiderman's second term through Dec. 31. Heastie indicated Underwood would be the Legislature's choice a week after she led off a roster of 12 prospective candidates who were interviewed by a bipartisan committee of lawmakers over two days in Albany.

Underwood, 73, became the state's top legal chief when Schneiderman's resignation became official at the end of business on May 8. Her decades-long law career was praised by lawmakers from both sides of the aisle during last week's public interviews, and even several of the other candidates said she was the best person for the job.

"I believe that, at this critical time, the attorney general must be a stabilizing and strong voice for the rule of law," Underwood said during her May 15 interview. "I assure you that I can be that voice."

Underwood, a Democrat who has worked in the attorney general's office since 2007, said during her interview that she doesn't intend to run for the job this November.

There are plenty of other Democrats interested in seeking a four-year term as attorney general. In addition to the other 11 applicants interviewed last week, the candidates include New York City Public Advocate Letitia James, U.S. Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney of the Hudson Valley, and Leecia Eve, a former adviser to fellow Democrats Hillary Clinton and Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Democrats will nominate their candidate for attorney general at this week's state convention on Long Island.

Schneiderman's resignation came a day after The New Yorker reported the allegations of abuse leveled by four women who had dated him in recent years. He was expected to win easily in November in a state where Democrats outnumber Republicans by more than 2-to-1, but his hopes for a third term started crumbling when the magazine posted its article online the evening of May 7. He announced his resignation just hours later.

Cuomo has appointed Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas as special prosecutor to investigate the women's abuse allegations against Schneiderman.