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Democrats clear the way, after NY AG chooses reelection over bid for governor

Attorney general Tish James in front of a wall covered with gold plaques

Each Democrat who had announced a run for state attorney general over the last two months has now dropped their bid for the job after incumbent Attorney General Letitia James said Friday she’d switch course and seek reelection.

The last Democrat to end their campaign was Maria Vullo, who said Monday that she would support James in her bid for reelection.

“I greatly admire the work Tish has done as Attorney General and she has my full and unwavering support for her re-election,” Vullo said in a statement.

Until last Thursday, James was a candidate for governor in the Democratic primary, running against current Gov. Kathy Hochul, Rep. Tom Suozzi, and New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams for the party’s nomination.

Then, in a surprise announcement, James said she would bow out of the race for governor in favor of reelection to her current job, which she was first elected to in 2018.

Before that announcement, five Democrats had announced intentions to succeed her: Vullo, State Sen. Shelley Mayer, Assm. Clyde Vanel, constitutional law professor Zephyr Teachout, and attorney Dan Goldman.

Each said they would rather support James than run against her next year’s primary.

James has a strong history of winning elected office. She lost her first race for a seat on the New York City Council, but then won during a special election for the district in 2003. She hasn’t lost a race since.

After serving for the maximum number of years allowed on the New York City Council, James ran for New York City Public Advocate in 2013. She won that race, and was reelected in 2017.

When former Attorney General Eric Schneiderman abruptly left office amid claims of sexual misconduct in 2018, James ran to replace him. She won a crowded primary, and was elected by a wide margin in that year’s general election.

Because of her meteoric, and consistent, rise in state politics, it was speculated in political circles that James had her eye on the governor’s office. But, once being an ally to former Gov. Andrew Cuomo, it was unclear if she would challenge him.

That changed this year, when Cuomo tasked James with investigating several claims of sexual harassment made against him.

After a five-month probe conducted by a pair of independent appointees, James released a report that found the claims against Cuomo to be credible and ultimately led to his resignation days later. Cuomo has denied the claims.

James announced her run for governor about three months later, and was considered to be Hochul’s closest competitor. Polling showed her behind Hochul, but ahead of the other candidates.

But as fast as it came, it went: James announced less than two months after she launched her campaign that she would drop her bid, saying she wanted to stay in her current job.

“I have come to the conclusion that I must continue my work as attorney general. There are a number of important investigations and cases that are underway, and I intend to finish the job,” James said Thursday.

As of Monday, no other Democrats had filed to run against her, other than those who’ve now dropped out of the race.

On the Republican side, a primary is brewing between attorneys Michael Henry, John Sarcone, and Joe Holland. The primary election will be held in June.