Democratic New York Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney says he is confident that he is on firm legal footing in running for state attorney general. The Hudson Valley lawmaker held a conference call with reporters Thursday and spoke about why he decided to jump into the primary with at least three other candidates.
Maloney says he wants to be elected attorney general to do more than he can do in his current 18th District seat.
“We’re playing good defense, but I want to do more. And this job, the attorney general’s job, I think, is an opportunity to get off defense and get on offense. And I’ve got the skill and the experience, 25 years of it, working at the White House, and the governor’s office, running a business and creating jobs, practicing law at three global law firms,” Maloney says. “I’ve got the experience to take on the fights and to win them, and that’s what I’m doing in the race. And if somebody can do a better job, I wouldn’t be in it.”
Maloney ran for the position in 2006, losing a three-way primary to now Governor Andrew Cuomo. Orange County Legislator James O’Donnell is the Republican congressional candidate running against Maloney.
“It’s not fair to the public,” says O’Donnell. “In my opinion, it’s unethical to go for two seats at the same time.”
O’Donnell says his campaign is consulting with attorneys on the matter but would not say whether he might sue Maloney depending on what attorneys find.
“That’s a decision to be made then,” O’Donnell says. “I don’t like to deal in hypotheticals, okay.”
“I am the nominee for Congress. What the law says in the state of New York, it’s actually pretty simple. If you’re nominated for one thing, you do that thing. If you’re nominated for something else, you’ve got to decline the previous nomination. So if I am nominated for attorney general, I will decline the congressional nomination, simple as that,” says Maloney. “I will never be nominated for two offices simultaneously. There will be no confusion about that.”
Long Island Democratic Congresswoman Kathleen Rice had considered a run for state attorney general but declined, citing state law that prevented her from running for two offices simultaneously. Maloney was asked about Rice’s decision.
“I think she got some bad advice and she made her decision. You should ask her,” says Maloney. “I got nothing but respect for her and if she was in this race, I’m not sure I would be.”
Another question surrounds whether Maloney can use the roughly $3 million in congressional campaign funds to run for state office.
“The bottom line is is that the law says you, as I understand it, is you can transfer between committees. So we think we can use virtually all the money. But, you know what? I don’t care,” says Maloney. “If I can use the resources and the support I’ve already demonstrated, great. If I have to raise every penny from scratch, we’ll go do that.”
The position is open after Democrat Eric Schneiderman resigned in May amid assault allegations. Maloney says all of the current candidates would make history. Maloney would be the first openly gay attorney general in New York. The others would be either the first woman, first African American or, in the case of New York City Public Advocate Letitia James or former counsel to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo Leecia Eve, both. James is the state Democratic Party’s nominee. Zephyr Teachout, who ran against Cuomo in the 2014 gubernatorial primary, also is running. The GOP backs Buffalo native and New York City attorney Keith Wofford as its candidate. As for Congress, where Maloney would be seeking a fourth term:
“If I lose the attorney general’s race, I will go back to the people of my district and say, I would love to keep serving you in Washington, if you’ll have me,” says Maloney.
The statewide primaries are September 13.