Which Attorney General Should I Vote For?
As elections near, there are 11 competitive attorney general races across America that serve as indicators for how state lawmakers are responding to pressing issues like abortion rights, election falsehoods and federal policies. Each of these contests serves as a barometer of what the nation’s opinion is on important matters like abortion rights, election falsehoods and federal policies.
The New York attorney general race is a particularly high-stakes contest. Incumbent Letitia James, who became the first woman to hold that position, is running for reelection.
Letitia James has served as New York’s attorney general since 2018, making history as the first Black woman elected statewide and a progressive politician. With an extensive background in public service – having served as both council member and public advocate in New York City – and her progressive politics, Letitia James is no ordinary attorney general.
As New York’s top prosecutor, she has taken on predatory landlords who harass tenants and endanger children by violating lead paint laws. Additionally, she protected New Yorkers from polluters who flouted environmental protection law. Furthermore, she spearheaded efforts to prevent citizenship questions from being added to census forms while successfully safeguarding DACA recipients.
She is an active activist, having collaborated with numerous social justice groups such as the Women’s March, Working Families Party and New York Progressive Coalition. She advocated for criminal justice reforms to reduce discrimination against the poor and minorities by giving judges more discretion when deciding whether or not to release people from jail on cash bail.
Her work as the state’s top prosecutor has also put her in the crosshairs of former President Donald Trump, whom she alleges inflated the value of his properties to obtain better interest rates from banks. Their differences have been highlighted multiple times over the course of their investigation into Trump’s real estate empire, which she claims inflated in order to obtain better rates from banks.
Cuomo’s allegations that she is politically motivated have only served to fuel Trump’s denials. He filed an ethics complaint against her, labelling the investigation a “witch hunt,” and alleging her office is working to advance their reelection campaign by infiltrating his administration.
Letitia James, the Democrat who led her party to victory in 2018, is seeking reelection against Republican challenger Michael Henry – a commercial litigation attorney. While elections for New York’s top law enforcement post typically receive less media coverage than other statewide races, these two candidates could be closely contested come November.
Last month, a Siena poll showed James leading with 51 – 40 percent of likely voters. Another Trafalgar Group survey conducted between September 30 and October 3 put Henry on top with 45.4 – 44 percent of likely voters.
Though the race has become tight, James still enjoys significant fundraising advantages over Henry. She began the contest with millions more dollars than her opponent and still had nearly $1 million to spend in the final stretch, according to her latest financial filings.
Henry, a commercial litigation attorney from Manhattan, has never held public office before but believes he’s qualified and ready for the challenges that come with being New York’s top law enforcement position. He plans on focusing his attention on reforming the criminal justice system which he believes needs overhauling, particularly cashless bail reform which he believes is contributing to skyrocketing crime rates throughout the state.
He also wants to strengthen the Public Integrity Bureau, which investigates corruption within state government. Furthermore, he would eliminate what he considers excessive regulation on businesses which, according to him, hurts economic growth.
He’s an impressive candidate who is eager to take up the fight for our Constitution. With his experience and capacity for unification in New York, he should be the ideal person for the job.
Clyde Vanel, born to Haitian parents in Cambria Heights, Queens, experienced a challenging childhood. Raised in an overcrowded home with nine siblings, he strived to live life to its fullest and found activities that enabled him to blossom.
Vanel graduated from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, where he was active in Kappa Alpha Psi. He then continued on to Farmingdale State College before earning a JD from Boston University. Nowadays, Vanel works as an intellectual property attorney out of his own law firm and several businesses.
As an assembly member, he has taken on legislation for housing, employment and other matters that matter to his community. Specifically, he is passionate about passing laws on the impact of artificial intelligence and digital currency.
He also cosponsored legislation that permits New Yorkers to vote by absentee ballot, an advancement which has provided relief to many individuals who were previously unable to cast a vote.
In addition to his work in local government, he is an advocate for economic development and the Black Lives Matter movement. His efforts aim to ensure more jobs are created for marginalized groups while stimulating small business growth.
Vanel is a self-described entrepreneur who founded his own intellectual property firm after graduating law school in 2001. As a partner at Vanel Law Firm PC since 2003, he has built an exemplary practice.
He currently chairs the Subcommittee on Internet & New Technology in the Assembly, where he has introduced and sponsored various bills related to blockchain technology, cryptocurrency, Internet sales tax, online data privacy protection, artificial intelligence research, space exploration sports betting and aviation.
Vanel is a Democrat and represents the 33rd District of Queens, which includes Cambria Heights, St. Albans, Hollis, Queens Village and Bellerose as well as parts of Floral Park. He was elected in November 2016.
Michael Gianaris is the representative for New York State Senate District 12, located in Queens and including Astoria, Long Island City and parts of Woodside, Sunnyside and Maspeth. As the first Greek-American elected to the Senate, he has demonstrated remarkable leadership within both his community and state.
Gianaris has authored numerous important public safety and environmental laws throughout his tenure as a state senator, such as the Energy Security Act that has become a model for states across America. Additionally, he crafted the Clean Energy Law which encourages private industry to utilize clean technology to reduce pollution and boost productivity.
Gianaris has also held Con Edison accountable for blackouts that caused severe damage to residents and businesses in western Queens, calling for legislation that would require Con Ed to pay restitution to affected consumers.
Gianaris had initially supported Cuomo’s plans to bring Amazon HQ2 to Queens, but his position changed once he learned of the subsidies Amazon was receiving. While he had written an inviting letter in 2017, he then withdrew it after learning more about them.
Gianaris, a well-known progressive, gained national attention for his staunch opposition to the Amazon deal. He served on the Public Authorities Control Board – a state body with the power to veto the plan if needed – which garnered national media coverage.
Gianaris may have strong opinions against Amazon’s project, but he still enjoys a strong rapport with many Queens voters. As an influential state senator and chairman of the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee, he must pick up one seat for Democrats to gain control of the state Legislature next year.
At a young age, Joseph Holland lived in Sweden and pursued his love of sports with freedom. However, racial protesters often put him on the defensive. As such, he was obliged to wear an Afro wig while there to give himself cultural identity and help other Swedes identify with his blackness.
Over the course of his life, he developed into a student, author and public servant with an emphasis on social justice and environmental protection. Additionally, he was involved in ordaining black men into ministry positions and founded Harkhomes – a shelter for homeless men – during which time his impact on society was immense.
His experience in both corporate and nonprofit sectors has equipped him with a unique perspective on social issues such as gun violence, economic opportunities, environmental sustainability, consumer protections and criminal justice reform. He has spoken at numerous conferences across America and his work has been recognized in multiple publications.
He is a trustee emeritus of Cornell University and recently gave the Alan T. and Linda M. Beimfohr Lecture on an issue that resonates with many. The talk explored the connection between racial justice and Christian witness, which have been central to America’s history for centuries.
Voters facing a difficult decision when selecting their attorney general candidate must weigh the qualifications and positions on key issues. But there are some candidates that stand out for their experience and positions on key topics.
Joe Holland is one of them; a Cornell trustee emeritus and former state housing commissioner, as well as an accomplished real estate developer, attorney, author, and civic leader. If elected, his expertise on housing affordability, land use issues and the role of state involvement in communities around New York would be invaluable. Holland is an impressive candidate who could serve as an effective attorney general for New York State.