State Attorney General Letitia James said on Thursday that over the next few days she wants to spend more time talking about the issues facing the people of Puerto Rico than the upcoming gubernatorial primary.

James, who formally announced her run for governor last week, is one of the many New York Democrats in attendance at the Somos el Futuro conference, which offers candidates an opportunity to secure support among lawmakers, labor leaders and lobbyists.

“We come here to Puerto Rico on an annual basis, and I've been coming here for years,” James said. "And for me, it’s to do a wellness check on our fellow Americans."

James attended a welcoming reception hosted by state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli Wednesday evening. Thursday morning, she traveled to the Caño Martín Peña section of San Juan to call on the Biden administration to send federal funding to millions of American citizens on the island.

During that event, the focus quickly shifted to politics, even as she tried to dismiss questions about the political nature of her trip.

James demurred several times when asked what her strategy will be over the next few days as she seeks to shore up support. She also said she has no planned meetings with Gov. Kathy Hochul or Eric Adams, both of whom are expected to arrive in San Juan this afternoon.

“We should focus on the issues,” James said, referencing the subject of the press conference. “I want to keep a focus on what is happening here in Puerto Rico, and not about the politics of it all. If you focus on again advocating for social justice and equality, consistent with our law, then everything else will work out. I'm confident of that.”

James was also asked about the timing of the announcement for her run for governor, which came just a day after the Albany county sheriff announced a criminal charge against former Gov. Andrew Cuomo. After that announcement, Cuomo’s defense team accused James of overseeing a politically motivated investigation, which concluded Cuomo sexually harassed 11 people and led to his resignation. 

“It was purely coincidental,” James said. “As for the former governor’s concerns, more of the same, it's more of the same to undermine our report, our investigation, which was corroborated and substantiated. And it's unfortunate that the former governor of the state of New York refuses to take accountability for his own actions and his own conduct. I think he needs to move on.”

For the bulk of the news conference, James focused her attention on Puerto Rico, calling on the Biden administration to drop its appeal to a case that could deny Social Security benefits to U.S. citizens living on the island. 

The Supreme Court is preparing to consider if whether to uphold two lower court decisions that found a denial of Supplemental Security Income benefits to a U.S. citizen who moved from New York to Puerto Rico violates equal protection. The SSI program is one of the nation’s most essential social safety net programs, providing aid to low-income Americans who are elderly or disabled.

“We prayerfully and humbly call upon President Biden to start sending federal aid to our fellow Americans in Puerto Rico,” James said. “The reason why we supported President Biden was because he was compassionate and because he understands the issues of hardship, but he must also understand what is happening here I'm Puerto Rico.”

Biden’s Department of Justice has argued the issue should be taken up in Congress, not the courts. But that position raises questions given the lack of political representation at the federal level for the U.S. territory's more than 3 million residents.