In a job interview process with serious consequences, the state legislature on Tuesday started interviewing candidates to replace former Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who resigned after an article detailed abuse allegations by four women.
Barbara Underwood, the acting attorney general, was appointed immediately after Schneiderman resigned. She told lawmakers that she would like the appointment to stay in the post until the end of the year.
"I have spoken with the legislative leaders to tell them that I was seeking the position and that I would not run for election, which was a matter of great importance to them," Underwood said.
Including Underwood, lawmakers have a list of 13 candidates they will interview for the job over two days. They maintain that no one is favored over anybody else.
"There are a lot of people, including chief executives and the press, who believe we should not bother with our responsibility, but we believe that we have a constitutional power and right to do this," said State Assemblyman Joe Lentol of Brooklyn.
Long Island Congresswoman Kathleen Rice, who expressed interest in the job, withdrew Tuesday. Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney of the Hudson Valley, and State Sen. Michael Gianaris of Queens, may run for the position but declined to participate in legislative vetting.
The person believed to have the inside track for the position, Public Advocate Letitia James, is expected to formally announce her candidacy Wednesday.
James was also seeking the Working Families Party ballot line, but sources said Gov. Andrew Cuomo is pressuring James not to take it because the party endorsed his Democratic primary opponent, Cynthia Nixon, over him. Cuomo denies this.
"It's very disturbing to hear that anybody would try to stop her — as a historic candidate, too, in the state of New York — from fully realizing her potential to run as a candidate," former City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito said.
Finally, Underwood was asked if she has spoken to Schneiderman:
"I believe I had one conversation with him about moving his things out of my office — what is now my office," Underwood said.
At one point, legislators began cutting off fellow lawmakers trying to ask questions because time was an issue. Lawmakers had seven interviews to do Tuesday but didn't even begin that process until 2 p.m. A spokesman for the state Assembly speaker responded on Twitter that the room they needed was booked until that time.