JON CAMPBELL http://rochesterdemocrat.ny.newsmemory.com/
ALBANY — The Democratic incumbents for attorney general and comptroller are seeking second, four-year terms on Election Day, Nov. 4.
Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is pointing to a record in office that includes high-profile settlements with major financial institutions and indictments of public officials for corruption.
Republicans see the potential of defeating Schneiderman as their best chance at capturing a statewide office, with Yonkers resident John Cahill once former Gov. George Pataki’s chief of staff — mounting a challenge.
Onondaga County Comptroller Robert Antonacci, a Republican, has had a more difficult time establishing his footing against Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, a who was first appointed to the job in 2007 and then won a full term in 2010. The Democrats have a lead in public-opinion polls and campaign fundraising, and Republicans haven’t won a statewide race since Pataki’s last election in 2002.
But with some expecting voter turnout to be low, Republicans are hoping for an upset in a state with twice as many Democrats than Republicans.
Schneiderman, 59, was first elected to office in 2010, besting four other Democrats in a crowded primary before defeating Staten Island District Attorney Dan Donovan in the general election. He garnered national attention in 2011 when he broke from a group of attorneys general that had been negotiating a 50-state settlement with banks involved in the mortgage crisis, expressing concern that some of the lenders could get legal immunity as part of the deal.
The next year, he was appointed by President Obama to co-lead a task force to negotiate with and investigate the banks, and a massive $14 billion national settlement with JP Morgan Chase came soon after in 2013. Other major settlements have followed, including a nearly $17 billion agreement with Bank of America earlier this year.
“We’ve recovered more than $60 billion nationally, we’ve helped keep hundreds of thousands of families in their homes,” Schneiderman said in an interview with Gannett’s Albany Bureau. “More than $4 billion of that has come to New York. We’ve recovered more money for the state and for New Yorkers than any AG term in history.”
Cahill, 55, says Schneiderman hasn’t put people responsible for the financial crisis in prison. And he’s criticized the incumbent repeatedly for his role in the Moreland Commission, an anti-corruption panel that was abruptly disbanded by Cuomo in March.
Cuomo created the panel itself, but Schneiderman played a key role in its inception: naming the members of the commission deputies of his office as a way to broaden their subpoena power past the executive branch. With the commission in the midst of various corruption investigations, Cuomo shut it down in March after lawmakers agreed to a legislative package that included tougher anti-bribery laws.
The downfall of the commission has since attracted the attention of U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, who is currently investigating the matter. And Cahill said Schneiderman shares responsibility for the commission’s demise.
“For him to try and run away from accountability on this is clear,” Cahill said in an interview. “The fact of the matter is that the commission was supposed to be independent of the governor and the Legislature, but it was supposed to be accountable to the attorney general of the state of New York.”
Schneiderman, a former state senator from Manhattan, said he treated the Moreland Commission as independent after his initial role in its creation.
He’s declined to get into specifics about the demise of the commission, citing the ongoing federal investigation. But the attorney general points to his own record of fighting corruption, including a partnership with DiNapoli that has resulted in more than 50 cases against public officials, including the convictions of now-former state Sen. Shirley Huntley, D-Queens, and Assemblyman William Boyland, D-Brooklyn.
Cahill said the attorney general’s office needs to show more independence than Schneiderman has shown.
A Yonkers resident since his youth, Cahill is a former commissioner of the state Department of Environmental Conservation in addition to being a top Pataki aide and business partner. He’s also an attorney at a Manhattan law firm, Chadbourne & Parke, where Pataki also works. Cahill appeared to be cutting into Schneiderman’s lead early in the race, but has since fallen back, polls showed. A Siena College poll last month showed Cahill trailing by 15-percentage points, but a Siena poll Wednesday showed Schneiderman’s lead back up to 20 percentage points.
The comptroller acts as New York’s fiscal watchdog, overseeing the state’s $15 billion payroll and, most importantly, its $181 billion pension fund.
DiNapoli, 60, of Great Neck, Nassau County, was first appointed comptroller in 2007 after former Comptroller Alan Hevesi resigned amid scandal. A Democrat, DiNapoli was elected to a full, fouryear term in 2010.
When Antonacci, the Onondaga County Comptroller and Republican candidate, decided to enter into the state comptroller’s race in May, he looked to be in line for a significant financial boost from the state. In March, Cuomo and state lawmakers agreed to a pilot program, in which small campaign donations to state comptroller candidates would be matched at a 6-to-1 rate.
DiNapoli, the incumbent state comptroller, declined to participate, saying the system was too hastily conceived. And given a series of fundraising limits the program would impose, DiNapoli would have had to return a significant portion of the campaign warchest he already amassed.
Antonacci opted in, but the program called for the candidate to reach a fundraising threshold before qualifying for matching funds: $200,000 from at least 2,000 private donors who gave between $10 and $175. And with less than two weeks to go until Election Day, Antonacci is well short of that threshold.
With Antonacci unable to get an advertisement on television he’s struggled to gain ground on DiNapoli. A Siena College poll last week showed DiNapoli with a 27-percentage-point lead.