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Letitia James Wins Attorney General Primary In New York

New York could well be on its way to electing its first black female attorney general.

Letitia James overpowered three rivals in Thursday’s Democratic primary, likely paving the way for her to become New York’s top law enforcement officer—and the first woman of color elected statewide.

James, currently New York City public advocate, is a former Brooklyn councilwoman and public defender.

She still has to win November’s general election. But in a heavily Democratic New York, James is strongly favored to earn the post formerly held by Eric Schneiderman, who resigned in the wake of a New Yorker expose that detailed claims he abused women while publicly championing the #MeToo movement.

James carried the endorsement of Gov. Andrew Cuomo into her successful fight for the Democratic AG nomination against law professor and author Zephyr Teachout, Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, and Verizon executive Leecia Eve.

In another closely watched match, Cuomo decisively defeated his own primary foe, Cynthia Nixon—although the actress and activist scored more than 30 percent of the vote in her underdog challenge against him.

A win’s a win, but Nixon’s voter percentage is notable for a sitting Democratic governor who has his own progressive bona fides…and whose name has been in the mix of potential 2020 presidential contenders (Cuomo did say during a debate with Nixon, however, that he’ll serve out his term as governor if re-elected in November.)

Nixon grabbed headlines with her bid to topple Cuomo—and not just as a former Sex and the City star or New York’s would-be first female—and openly LGBT—governor. She was always considered an major longshot to unseat incumbent Cuomo—even though his administration has been dogged by corruption scandals. But Nixon’s energetic campaign spoke to the core of an election season focused heavily on a flood of women entering the political arena and on progressives trying hard to push the Democratic establishment to the left.

“We have fundamentally changed the political landscape in this state,” Nixon said in her Thursday night concession speech.

“I see the future of the Democratic Party in this room tonight. The future of the Democratic Party is young, it is diverse, it is progressive; and yes, the future is female,” said Nixon, who fell short of becoming the sixteenth woman nominated for governor in a record-breaking midterm year.

The unapologetically liberal Nixon joined forces with attorney general hopeful Zephyr Teachout, who herself ran against Cuomo for governor four years ago. The two made appearances in front of Trump Tower in Manhattan, contrasting their left-leaning platforms with the Republican president’s conservative nationalism.

Teachout also stumped as a defiant progressive, vowing to wage legal war against Trump as the state’s top lawyer. She campaigned with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the Democratic socialist who shot to fame after defeating an entrenched New York congressman in a major upset. Teachout also showcased her pregnancy during the race, including in an ad that had her laying out her political plans while undergoing a sonogram.

But in the end, it was James who claimed victory, putting her an Election Day away from becoming the fourth black woman in the nation ever elected to an attorney general’s post, according to the non-partisan Gender Watch 2018 project.

“Tonight, we rewrite the history of generations of New Yorkers who have been treated differently simply because of their gender, the color of their skin, the language they speak, the God they pray to, the people they love, or the zip code they come from,” she said in thanking supporters after her win.

At another gathering, Cuomo fans, reportedly, had to hold their victory party without him.


Celeste Katz is senior politics reporter for Glamour. Send news tips, questions, and comments to celeste_katz@condenast.com.

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