BY THE EDITORIAL BOARD
If you are a registered Democrat in New York State — and you care about protecting your family, your community, your state and your country from the policies of the Trump administration — then you need to go to the polls on September 13 and vote for Leecia Eve for the Democratic nomination for attorney general.
It will likely be the most important vote you cast this year.
Currently, the state AG’s office is engaged in various fights against the Trump administration’s dangerous policies on the environment, the census, net neutrality and women’s healthcare, to name a few. The office is also probing the Trump Organization’s practices and has already taken some action against the charity of the president’s family.
In a recent interview with the Queens Tribune editorial board, Eve said combating Trump would be priority number one for her if elected.
“Behind the headlines is a very real threat by this president on our rights, our values and our way of life,” Eve said. “And at the same time, we have a list of significant issues that we as a state must address.”
The Trump-related court cases need to be guided by more than just a headline-grabbing AG. The typical rhetoric of a career politician or the theoretical explanation intoned by an academic isn’t enough. The legal cases must be bulletproof. Failure is not acceptable.
A legal loss in any of these cases would be a huge setback for all of them, and would add fire to the already out-of-control blaze of partisanship that is engulfing our country.
If the next attorney general is too eager or too political, pressing forward with cases that aren’t sure things, the office could lose credibility. It’s a risk we cannot take, which is why Leecia Eve’s experience in government and as a litigator makes her the best candidate at this moment in time.
New York doesn’t need a brawler in the office; the state needs a winner. Winning requires strategy and experience, along with a fighting spirit. We can’t afford on-the-job training. Intellectual acumen is not a replacement for hardened and tested experience.
Eve is the only candidate in the Democratic primary who has a full grasp of the tools of the office and which ones to use at the appropriate time — whether it be legal enforcement for criminal activity, proposed legislation to prevent a growing crisis, or use of the office’s bullhorn to sound the alarm.
Back in the ’90s, the Harvard Law graduate proved herself a proficient litigator while fighting the D.C. prison system to provide more rights for female inmates — taking on entrenched power to secure basic human rights for a forgotten population. Since then, she has adroitly run government agencies, crafted impactful legislation that has helped New Yorkers, and carved out a successful corporate career.
The breadth of her experience is likely the reason she is the candidate who appears to best see the whole picture of an issue and not just the case on her desk. On the campaign trail, she articulates an expansive vision for the office. One example is how she connects the lack of education opportunities to disproportionate arrest rates for juveniles and young men of color — leading to a life sentence of stigma even after they repay their debt to society — and proposes legislation to address the problem at the root.
“We have an unfair criminal justice system that treats, particularly, black and brown young men differently and worse than everyone else. That predates Donald Trump. We in New York, we own that,” Eve told the Queens Tribune.
“We own that not every child in this state is receiving what I would argue they are morally entitled to receive, and what the state’s highest court ruled they were constitutionally required to receive, and that is a quality public-school education.”
The other three candidates — Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, New York City Public Advocate Letitia James and Fordham professor Zephyr Teachout — are all honorable and capable of doing a decent job as attorney general. But they do not appear to see the full impact of the office the way Eve does, or are not as prepared to execute such a vision.
Sean Patrick Maloney is a talented politician who has a distinguished career of public service, but if he truly wanted to be AG he wouldn’t have stayed on the ballot as a member of Congress. It just smells of political opportunism over a desire to embrace the office fully.
Letitia James is a dedicated public servant. Her support from the majority of elected officials would help her in the office, but also raises legitimate questions about whether she would be independent. Many, including this editorial board, view her run as personal political ambition.That, coupled with her lack of management experience, makes her a less-desirable choice.
Zephyr Teachout is a fierce advocate for good government. Her academic research on corruption is a valuable asset. She is the best of the other three, and we would likely be backing her if there weren’t a candidate with more management experience, a better grasp of law, a longer list of accomplishments fighting for the underprivileged, and a temperament more suited to the office.
Eve’s respect for the institution and its employees makes her the best candidate to ensure a seamless transition — a necessity with so many high-stakes cases underway. Moreover, her unmatched courtroom success makes her the most likely candidate to instantly garner the respect of the more than 2,000 attorneys and support staff who are keeping our state safe.
When asked by our editorial board what she would say first to the staff at the Office of the Attorney General, her response was, “I’d say ‘thank you.’ Then I would listen.”
Her response is in stark contrast to the approach of her competitors, who are offering several step plans to make changes to an office that functions quite well, despite the personal failings of the people who have led it. At a time when the institutions that are the foundation of our society and our safety are under attack, we need a fierce defender of the office.
Now we have to admit, Eve doesn’t look like the favorite on paper. Letitia James has the bulk of the Democratic power backing her campaign, while Zephyr Teachout has consolidated support from what has been dubbed the more-progressive wing of the party, along with the editorial boards of The New York Times and the New York Daily News. According to the polling, which is sparse, it is a race between those two candidates. Yet Eve is the one candidate who is independent and respected enough to be acceptable to both wings of the party — uniting the tribe in focusing on harmful federal policies that actually impact voters’ everyday lives.
Some people have pointed to Eve’s long career in government working for Sen. Hillary Clinton, and for the state during Andrew Cuomo’s tenure as governor, as some sort of negative. We consider the experience to be a positive attribute for this position, and in no way compromising of her independence as an advocate for the people.
For the past five years, Eve has headed up government relations for Verizon in New York, Connecticut and New Jersey. This has been painted as a negative as well, because the party’s voters have little tolerance for corporate influence. However, we see no evidence that Eve is interested in rolling back regulations to help big business at the expense of people. In fact, we suspect that her boardroom experience makes her uniquely qualified to identify bad actors and keep the marketplace more fair for all.
During the extended interview with our editorial board, Eve outlined several specific plans to make the AG’s office more responsive to voters, including an idea she grabbed from Robert Abrams, who served as attorney general of New York from 1979 to 1993. Referring to him as the role model for the office, Eve said:
“One of the many things that I liked that [Abrams] did was he had an AG for a day in your community….Every lawyer in the office had to spend an entire day in a storefront in a different community…and no matter what your circumstances, you got to walk into that storefront and talk to an AG about your issue…and get an answer about how the AG could solve your problem, and if they couldn’t, give you the right referral.”
The profound understanding Eve displays of how government has served people well — and can serve people well in the future — is yet another characteristic that eminently qualifies her for the position.
More now than ever, we need a sure thing running the Office of the Attorney General of the State of New York. The Queens Tribune editorial board has come to the unanimous conclusion that Leecia Eve is that sure thing — the only candidate with the bona fides the Democrats can offer New York at this crucial juncture to mount a robust legal defense against the Trumpian tsunami of disruption and abuse.