New York Democrats Put Five on Primary Ballot for Attorney General Nominee

New York Democrats voted to have five candidates for state attorney general compete in a Sept. 14 primary election, rather than endorse a favorite at the party’s nominating convention.

The convention, held 40 miles from midtown Manhattan at a hotel and conference center in Rye Brook, Westchester County, ends today with delegates expecting to nominate state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo for governor. The decision to determine his successor in a primary avoided a potentially rancorous process that may have left some party stalwarts feeling slighted.

“Because there is such a strength of support for each one of them, the call has come from across the state for a new, more open direction in this particular race,” state Chairman Jay Jacobs told the convention delegates yesterday afternoon.

Cuomo and former Governor Eliot Spitzer used the attorney general’s job to catapult themselves into the party’s Democratic gubernatorial nominations by probing and prosecuting Wall Street firms, insurance companies and other corporate defendants for alleged abuses. Spitzer, elected in 2006, resigned in March 2008 amid a prostitution scandal.

The candidates and party leaders agreed to hold more than one vote to meet party rules that require candidates to get at least 25 percent of the total to be on the primary ballot, said Jacobs. Anyone who falls short would have had to obtain 15,000 voter signatures statewide between June 8 and July 15.

Compromise Plan

The candidates and party leaders agreed to the compromise May 25, the convention’s first day, he said. The five candidates include Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice, 45; former state Insurance Commissioner Eric Dinallo, 46; state Senator Eric Schneiderman, 55, of Manhattan, Assemblyman Richard Brodsky of Westchester, 64, and Sean Coffey, 53, a Navy veteran and trial lawyer.

On the first ballot, Rice received 36 percent; Schneiderman 27 percent; Brodsky 27 percent; Dinallo 7.7 percent, and Coffey 1.7 percent. In the second ballot, delegates shifted their votes enough so that Dinallo and Coffey each met the 25 percent threshold.

“You see the signs that say the ‘New Democratic Party?’ This is the new math,” Jacobs said, invoking the convention slogan. “We’re going to get 125 out of just 100.”

The winner of the Sept. 14 primary election may face Dan Donovan, the Republican district attorney of the New York City borough of Staten Island, in the Nov. 2 general election.

To contact the reporter on this story: Henry Goldman at hgoldman@bloomberg.net.

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