Letitia James made history Tuesday night, becoming the first black woman elected to statewide office in New York. The Democrat will also be the state’s first black attorney general.
James defeated Republican lawyer Keith Wofford, a little-known candidate in a state where Democrats outnumber Republicans by more than 2 to 1. The public advocate for New York City, James is still introducing herself to people elsewhere in the state.
James has promised to use her new office to go after President Donald Trump and his administration.
“At a time when we are seeing such vitriol and such hate on the national level, led by someone who is supposed to be a voice for all Americans,” she said at her victory party Tuesday night, “I am proud to stand here as a New Yorker who knows that it’s our diversity, our strength, our courage and our determination that makes us great.”
James, 60, is in her second term as New York City’s public advocate, an ombudsman-like position that’s first in the line of succession to the mayor. She previously served for a decade on the city council and was a public defender and assistant attorney general.
James entered the race after Attorney General Eric Schneiderman resigned in May. She picked up endorsements from Gov. Andrew Cuomo on her way to winning a four-way Democratic primary in September. James takes over from Attorney General Barbara Underwood, who was appointed in May and wasn’t a candidate in the election.
One of eight children hailing from Crown Heights, her parents were maintenance workers. She graduated from Lehman College of the City University of New York and Howard University School of Law. She is not married and has no children.
James said she wants the office to be a firewall against Trump’s agenda and would continue pending lawsuits challenging his policies on immigration, the environment and other topics, as well as one accusing the president’s charitable foundation of breaking the law. In her victory speech, she called Trump a “con man,” “carnival barker” and “fearmonger” and said she would be “shining a bright light into every dark corner of his real estate dealings and every dealing.”
James said she wants to use her office’s regulatory powers to prevent mortgage foreclosures and home abandonment, take action against slumlords, hold over-prescribing doctors and drug marketers accountable for their role in the opioid crisis and continue a partnership between the attorney general’s office and the comptroller’s office to police political corruption.