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N.Y. State Legislature Votes In Barbara Underwood To Remain Attorney General For Rest Of Year

May 22, 2018 - 4:24 pm
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ALBANY, N.Y. (WCBS 880/AP) -- The New York State Legislature voted Tuesday for Barbara Underwood to remain state attorney general through the year's end.

Underwood will fill out Eric Schneiderman’s term until Dec. 31. A new state attorney general will be elected this November.

Underwood is now the first woman to hold the position.

She won the interim post when the Democrat-controlled Assembly and Republican-led Senate cast a joint ballot Tuesday afternoon.

In a statement, Underwood said: "It is a tremendous honor and I pledge to serve the people of the Great State of New York with honesty, integrity, and all of the skills I have acquired during decades of public service. At this moment, when so many New Yorkers are fearful of the effects of overreaching and discriminatory federal policies on them and their families, the role of the New York Attorney General’s office is more important than ever."

Underwood continued in her statement: "I’ve served in many roles in government throughout my career. But I believe this job – at this moment in history – is the most important job I have ever had. I look forward to continuing to lead our office’s work to bring justice to all New Yorkers, without fear or favor.”

State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-The Bronx) 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.

“I’ll say it every single day. Do not believe what you read in the newspapers. There was no deal. There was no agreement,” Heastie said. “This was an open process. Anyone who wanted to apply was free to do that, and as they say, the cream rises to the top.”

As WCBS 880’s Peter Haskell reported, state Sen. Brian Kavanagh (D-Manhattan/Brooklyn) noted Underwood’s past performance as solicitor general.

"Barbara Underwood provides something that no other interim attorney general could provide, and that is the stability and the trust of the extraordinary men and women who work every day in the attorney general's office,” Kavanagh said.

Underwood, 73 – the former state solicitor general – took over as acting attorney general when Schneiderman resigned.

"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."

In pitching herself for the interim attorney general job, Underwood promised lawmakers in Albany that she would not run in the election, and would not help anyone who does. She points to her resume as a former state solicitor general, and a lawyer who has argued before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Speaking to state lawmakers last week, Underwood took pride in the AG’s office’s battles with the Trump White House.

"In many ways, I feel this work is the most important work I have ever done. And I assure you the work will continue," Underwood said.

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.

(© 2018 WCBS 880. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)