(The Center Square) – New York State Attorney General Letitia James spoke Wednesday to the advocacy nonprofit A Better New York, giving comments regarding the sexual harassment investigation that led to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s downfall and giving off signs that she might have the Executive Mansion in her sights.
“Allow me to offer some ideas on how things should be done differently … we need a forward-thinking government that is professional and data-driven,” the attorney general said in comments posted online by the civic affairs group.
James even joked during the event that Eric Adams spoke to the group before he won the New York City Democratic mayoral nomination – before telling the audience not to infer anything about her future.
Many in the crowd did anyway.
Campaign consultant George Artz described James’ remarks as a “stump speech she was practicing” to Gothamist.
“And everyone in the room after listening to that speech knows she’s running for governor,” he added.
Her comments came during a whirlwind two-day period in New York Democratic political circles. On Tuesday, New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams announced he was creating an exploratory committee to consider a gubernatorial run.
And after James spoke to ABNY, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio even hinted at a possible run for governor in next year’s election, saying he wanted to stay “involved in public life” after his term ends as mayor at the end of the year.
He was also asked by reporters during his daily briefing about his thoughts on the possibility of either Williams or James becoming governor.
“Next year, we’re going to have a chance to figure out the future of New York State,” the mayor said. “New York State needs to go in some very different directions. I think that’s abundantly clear.”
Williams and de Blasio would almost certainly find themselves trailing in initial polls to Gov. Kathy Hochul if they were to become official candidates. James, on the other hand, may not. Neither New York City official was part of a poll taken earlier this month by the Siena College Research Institute, but it asked registered voters their thoughts on James, and 38% responded favorably to just 18% who were unfavorable.
Hochul, who succeeded Cuomo last month, was polling at 42-17.
However, the new governor has come under some criticism in her first month on the job. Among the moves questioned was a last-minute selection of a Cuomo appointee to serve as the interim chair for a Joint Commission on Public Ethics meeting two weeks ago.
At that JCOPE meeting, the panel voted in public session against retracting a staff ruling last year that allowed Cuomo to get more than $5 million for a book written about managing the COVID-19 pandemic. Questions were raised after it was alleged that state resources were used to write the book.
Hochul, who has said she intends to run next year, has pledged to overhaul state government and increase transparency.
James on Wednesday also spoke out against the oft-criticized watchdog agency. She said the commission, which she called “J-Joke,” was set up to fail from the beginning.
The attorney general also called out the former governor, saying “no one is above the law.” Her office oversaw the independent investigation that found 11 women had credible claims of sexual harassment against him.
It was not the only investigation against Cuomo, but the fallout from that and the near certainty that he would face impeachment by state lawmakers led him to step down.
But he didn’t do it quietly, as he and his lawyers lashed out against the harassment investigation. And after James spoke Wednesday, Cuomo spoke out again.
On Twitter, the former governor said James should answer several questions, which he posted, about the investigation.
“It would raise serious red flags that the AG and her staff duck every time specific questions about omissions and inaccuracies in the AG’s report are raised,” Cuomo spokesperson Rich Azzopardi said in the statement. “The public deserves specific answers from the AG as to the credibility of her report - especially while she mulls a run for governor.”