ALBANY (TNS) – State Attorney General Letitia James made statements at a breakfast in Manhattan on Wednesday, saying she is strongly considering a governorship next year, just a week after to have proposed a less firm position.
James gave a written speech that offered a broad view of how state government should move forward in a world after the departure of Andrew Cuomo, who was governor until he resigned shortly thereafter. the release this summer of James’ report that said he sexually harassed several women and created a toxic culture in the executive chamber during his three terms.
“Over the past few years, we’ve seen New York hit by crisis after crisis – the pandemic, climate change, economic upheaval and the fight for social justice. At every turn, New Yorkers needed a government to help them prosper, but they didn’t have the government they needed, ”James said. “So let me offer some ideas on how I think things need to be done differently. “
The speech was delivered to the Association for a Better New York at an event that is often seen as a place to tease political ambitions. She avoided naming in her speech Governor Kathy Hochul, a Democratic opponent if she were to actually run, or New York public lawyer Jumaane Williams, a progressive, who had announced the day before her intention to explore a candidacy for the governor post.
James, the first black woman to hold a statewide post, presented a vision that called for sweeping ethical reforms, restructuring the power dynamics of the executive chamber, tackling the crises of climate change, coronavirus and of the opioid epidemic. She called for reforms to uplift people of color and the working class and boost the economy through jobs centered on good union positions that focus on climate smart infrastructure. She began to create the narrative arc of her time in public service and, most notably, of her work in her current office, battling gun violence, drug crises and powerful politicians.
James provided an overview of statewide reforms, such as work to be done on mental illness in Rochester, Buffalo and Syracuse. She spoke about her work against the Trump Organization and hinted at future business outcomes, which may target former President Donald J. Trump. She spoke about reproductive rights and poverty. And she spoke of innovating to “break society’s self-imposed glass ceilings.”
“To paraphrase Mayor (Fiorello) La Guardia, there is no Democratic or Republican way to root out corruption,” James said. “There is no way in the north or the north of the state to make the government work. So, let’s agree that we will not resume our activities as usual. No, getting back to normal is not the answer. era of commitment to doing what is right. “
Hochul, from western New York, has pledged to be governor of the whole state – “I love the upstate, the upstate, the whole state ”- although she has focused on giving the upstate its due. Hochul was the first governor of the north in a century, since Nathan L. Miller in 1921.
James, a Brooklyn-born Democrat who rose through the ranks of New York politics before becoming attorney general, was quick to respond to Cuomo’s criticisms. This is something she generally avoided as the former governor’s team attempted to present her office’s report as being driven by James’ own political ambitions.
“So far I have chosen to take the high road,” said James. “I chose not to answer in detail, but that is changing today.”
She made some differences between how she investigated the governor and how Cuomo, as attorney general, investigated the then governor. Elliot Spitzer. And she said Cuomo could have “a lot to say on these matters, but he never took responsibility for his own conduct.”
Cuomo’s personal spokesperson Rich Azzopardi tweeted during James’ remark, saying it raised “serious red flags” that James had not responded directly to criticism of the accuracy of his report, such as the dates on which certain events would have occurred.
“The public deserves specific responses from the (attorney general) as to the credibility of the report – especially as she ponders a candidacy for governor,” Azzopardi said.
An email sent on Cuomo’s behalf by Azzopardi later that day listed 10 detailed questions that James had not answered. “We welcome the GA into the conversation,” the email said.
James noted that transcripts of his report would be available after the conclusion of related investigations by the offices of five district attorneys across the state, which arose out of his report.
“Let’s not lose sight of what’s important. It’s not me. It’s not Mr. Cuomo, but the survivors of his sexual harassment. The people in our state whose trust he broke and the people who believed in him, including myself, ”James said. . “No one is above the law and our state can do better to move forward.”
James explained in detail his belief in regulating business to create a level playing field, making government more data-driven with defined goals and the need to remove power from the governor’s office, including its influence over the Ministry of Health and the lack of competence the Attorney General’s office has opened its own investigations.
“None of this can happen without ethics underpinning our entire government structure,” said James. “First of all, we need to abolish the weak ethics keepers we have now and replace them with an independent and accountable authority. Our state ethics body, JCOPE, was designed to fail. maybe why he’s known as J-Joke. “
She turned to rhetoric by insisting on “let us” accomplish certain reforms in the New York State government. His 22-minute speech ended with a standing ovation.