Letitia James

Last updated

Letitia James
Letitia James Interview Feb 2020.png
67th Attorney General of New York
Assumed office
January 1, 2019
Governor Andrew Cuomo
Preceded by Barbara Underwood
4th New York City Public Advocate
In office
January 1, 2014 December 31, 2018
Preceded by Bill de Blasio
Succeeded by Corey Johnson (acting)
Jumaane Williams
Member of the New York City Council
from the 35th district
In office
January 1, 2004 December 31, 2013
Preceded by James E. Davis
Succeeded by Laurie Cumbo
Personal details
Born (1958-10-18) October 18, 1958 (age 61)
New York City, New York, U.S.
Political party Democratic
Other political
affiliations
Working Families Party
Education Lehman College (BA)
Howard University (JD)
Columbia University (MPA)
Website Government website

Letitia Ann "Tish" James (born October 18, 1958) is an American lawyer, activist, and politician. She is a member of the Democratic Party, and is the Attorney General of New York having won the 2018 election to succeed appointed attorney general Barbara Underwood. She is the first African-American and first woman to be elected to the position. [1]

Contents

James previously served for a decade as a member of the New York City Council. She represented the 35th Council District, which includes the Brooklyn neighborhoods of Clinton Hill, Fort Greene, parts of Crown Heights, Prospect Heights, and Bedford-Stuyvesant. James chaired the Economic Development and Sanitation Committees, and served on several other committees. She was later elected the New York City Public Advocate in 2013.

Born and raised in Brooklyn, James obtained her J.D. degree at Howard University in Washington, D.C., after graduating from Lehman College in The Bronx. She worked as a public defender, then on staff in the New York State Assembly, and later as an Assistant Attorney General. She first ran for city council and won on the Working Families Party ballot line.

Early life and education

Letitia Ann James [2] was born on October 18, 1958, [3] in Brooklyn, [4] the daughter of Nellie and Robert James.[ citation needed ] She attended New York City public schools and received her B.A. from the City University of New York's Lehman College in 1981. [5]

She received her J.D. degree from the Howard University School of Law in Washington, D.C., [6] and was admitted to practice law in New York state in 1989. [7] In 2013, she was attending Columbia's School of International and Public Affairs for a degree in Master of Public Administration. [8]

Career

James served as a public defender for the Legal Aid Society [9] and established the Urban Network, a coalition of African American professional organizations aimed at providing scholarships for young people. [10] [11] In 1994, she promoted the Primary Health Care Development Bill in the City Council, which expanded day care resources for working families across the city. In 1996, James negotiated the Welfare Reform Act on behalf of the New York State Black and Puerto Rican Caucus.[ citation needed ]

She served on former New York Governor Mario Cuomo's Task Force on Diversity in the Judiciary. She served as counsel for Albert Vann, Chief of Staff for Roger L. Green in the New York State Assembly, and in the administration of New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer. She was appointed the first Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Brooklyn regional office in 1999. While working in that position, James worked in many capacities but notably focused on consumer complaints involving predatory lending and other unlawful business practices. [9]

2001 and 2003 City Council races

James' first run for the 35th Council District was in November 2001. In a close race, James received 42% of the vote on the Working Families Party line but lost to James E. Davis, a Democrat. In July 2003, just months before the next election, Davis was assassinated by Othniel Askew, a former political rival. Following Davis's death, his brother Geoffrey ran for his vacant Council seat on the Democratic Party ticket, but on election day, November 4, 2003, Geoffrey Davis lost by a large margin to James as the Working Families Party nominee. [12] In that 2003 race James officially became a member of the Working Families Party, and was the first citywide office-holder to run solely on the WFP line. [13] [14] [15]

City Council tenure

James speaking at City Hall, 2008 NLN Letitia James.jpg
James speaking at City Hall, 2008

James is the first member of the Working Families Party to win office in New York State, and the first third-party member to be elected to the city council since 1977. [16] She has since changed back to the Democratic party. [13] In 2005, James became involved in advocating against the proposed Brooklyn Nets Arena in her district, a case that put her against her Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Borough President Marty Markowitz and developer Bruce Ratner. James opposed the use of eminent domain to evict her constituents, selling the MTA's Atlantic Yards property below its market value, and keeping the planning of the project away from the New York City Council.[ citation needed ]

James again won the Working Families and the Democratic parties' nominations by a large margin over Samuel Eric Blackwell, an urban planner at Long Island University and pro-stadium advocate. She was re-elected on the Democratic line on November 8, 2005, with 88.11% of the vote, compared to 6.80% for Republican Anthony Herbert, and 5.08% for Independence Party candidate Charles B. Billups. [17]

On October 10, 2006, there was a devastating fire at the Broken Angel House, an architectural icon in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn. The fire attracted attention from the New York City Department of Buildings, which resulted in the citation of numerous building code violations. James represented Broken Angel's owner, Arthur Wood, pro bono in his negotiations to keep his home. The agency decided to allow Wood to re-occupy Broken Angel provided the upper levels were taken down and the central stairwell reconstructed. [18]

James was the sponsor of New York law 2007/29, which addressed the Alternative Enforcement Program by the Department of Housing Preservation and Development and violations of the housing maintenance code and multiple dwelling law; and 2008/004, which addressed the availability of Child Health Plus laws in day cares.[ citation needed ]

She was the first to question cost overruns and irregularities in the subcontracting work of the new CityTime payroll system much touted by Bloomberg which eventually led to several indictments, Bloomberg asking a tech giant for $600 million back, and two consultants fleeing the country in 2011. [19] [20]

James originally advocated for the demolition of the Second Empire houses on Admiral's Row in order to build a parking lot for a proposed supermarket to serve residents in nearby housing developments, but later supported preserving some of the historic housing. [21] In 2008, James, with Bill de Blasio, advocated against Mayor Michael Bloomberg's attempts to seek a third term without a voter referendum. [22]

James won the Democratic primary in September 2009 against her opponents, community organizer Delia Hunley-Adossa, [23] who received more than $200,000 from Forest City Ratner [24] and Medhanie Estiphanos, a financial consultant. [24] James went on to win re-election for a second term.

With New York State Senator Eric Adams, Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries, and NY city councilman Jumaane Williams, James called upon Mayor Bloomberg to investigate systemic corruption in the NYPD in November 2011. [25] She was also one of four councilmembers to sue the NYPD over its treatment of protesters at Occupy Wall Street.[ citation needed ]

In May 2013, with a group that included construction unions, community groups and other elected officials, she was a part of an Article 78 lawsuit against the Bloomberg administration and Acadia Realty Trust seeking the shut-down of the City Point real estate project and a reassessment of its environmental impact. [26]

In June 2016, James attempted to pressure six financial institutions, including BB&T, Berkshire Bank, Citizens Financial Group, People's United Bank, Regions Financial Corporation and TD Bank, into ending its practice of providing financial services to gun manufacturers. [27] BB&T was specifically requested to drop the accounts of SIG Sauer of New Hampshire, but denied the request. [28]

Committee assignments

  • Committee on Economic Development (chair)
  • Committee on Sanitation (chair)
  • Committee on Parks & Recreation
  • Committee on Small Business
  • Committee on Technology in Government
  • Committee on Veteran Affairs
  • Committee on Women's Issues [6] [29]

Public Advocate

Letitia James at the 2018 NYC March For Our Lives rally. Letitia James at March for Our Lives NYC.jpg
Letitia James at the 2018 NYC March For Our Lives rally.

In 2013, James ran for New York City Public Advocate and received 36% of the vote in the first Democratic primary, under the 40% threshold that would have avoided a runoff election. [30] James won the runoff election on October 1, 2013, against Daniel Squadron, 59%–41%, becoming the party's nominee for the city's elected watchdog position in November.

In the 2013 election campaign for Public Advocate, James was endorsed by many of the city's important labor unions, NOW, Planned Parenthood, Democracy for NYC, League of Conservation Voters, Amsterdam News and El Diario.[ citation needed ] James accomplished her first-place finish in spite of her campaign trailing Daniel Squadron's and Reshma Saujani's, in fundraising. [31] on October 1, 2013, becoming the party's nominee for the city's elected watchdog position in November. She was endorsed by third-place finisher Saujani in September [32] James won the Democratic runoff election. [30] Without a Republican opponent, she won the general election with over 83% of the vote. [33]

In 2017, James won the Democratic primary for her position with 77% of the vote, over closest competitor David Eisenbach’s 23%. [34]

New York State Attorney General

Election

In May 2018, James, who initially planned to run for Mayor of New York City in 2021 [35] , declared her candidacy for Attorney General of New York and won the Democratic primary on September 13, 2018 with 40.6% of the vote; she defeated Zephyr Teachout (31%) and two other candidates. [36] [37] On November 6, 2018, she was elected attorney general, defeating Republican Keith Wofford. [38]

Tenure

James marching in June 2019 at Stonewall 50 - WorldPride NYC 2019 Letitia James at New York Pride 50 - 2019-348 (48166918552) (1).jpg
James marching in June 2019 at Stonewall 50 – WorldPride NYC 2019

James was sworn in as attorney general on January 1, 2019, succeeding Barbara Underwood, who was first appointed after the resignation of Eric Schneiderman. [39]

State civil suit against the NRA

On 6 August 2020, in a televised broadcast, New York State Attorney General Letitia James announced a state civil lawsuit filed with the Manhattan Supreme Court against the National Rifle Association (NRA), including against four of its department heads. [40] The NRA filed a countersuit against James, citing statements she made during her 2018 campaign. [41]

Electoral history

New York City Council

2001 New York City Council's 35th District Democratic Primary [42]
PartyCandidateVotes%
Democratic James E. Davis 6,691 37.37%
Democratic Letitia James5,74632.09%
Democratic Peter Williams1,82310.18%
Democratic Abraham E. Wasserman1,7549.80%
Democratic William J. Saunders8754.89%
Democratic Sidique Wai5563.10%
Democratic Robert A. Hunter5563.10%
Total votes17,907 100%
2001 New York City Council's 35th District General Election [43]
PartyCandidateVotes%
Democratic James E. Davis 13,129 55.64%
Working Families Letitia James9,76241.37%
Independence Sidique Wai4972.11%
Liberal Sidique Wai2100.89%
TotalSidique Wai7073.00%
Total votes23,598 100%
Democratic hold
2003 New York City Council's 35th District General Election [44]
PartyCandidateVotes%
Working Families Letitia James 14,166 76.70%
Democratic Geoffrey A. Davis3,07716.66%
Independence Geoffrey A. Davis4971.71%
TotalGeoffrey A. Davis3,39218.36%
Republican Anthony Herbert5492.97%
Conservative Abraham E. Wasserman3631.97%
Total votes18,470 100%
Working Families gain from Democratic
2005 New York City Council's 35th District Democratic Primary [45]
PartyCandidateVotes%
Democratic Letitia James (incumbent) 8,667 84.92%
Democratic Samuel Eric Blackwell1,53915.08%
Total votes10,206 100%
2005 New York City Council's 35th District General Election [46]
PartyCandidateVotes%
Democratic Letitia James16,44777.61%
Working Families Letitia James2,27510.74%
TotalLetitia James (incumbent) 18,722 88.35%
Republican Anthony Herbert1,3096.18%
Conservative Anthony Herbert1810.85%
TotalAnthony Herbert1,4907.03%
Independence Charles B. Billups9794.62%
Total votes21,191 100%
Democratic gain from Working Families
2009 New York City Council's 35th District Democratic Primary [47]
PartyCandidateVotes%
Democratic Letitia James (incumbent) 8,027 81.15%
Democratic Delia M. Hunley-Adossa1,53913.92%
Democratic Medhanie Estiphanos4884.93%
Total votes9,893 100%
2009 New York City Council's 35th District General Election [48]
PartyCandidateVotes%
Democratic Letitia James (incumbent)19,87392.29%
Republican Stuart A. Balberg1,3556.29%
Conservative Stuart A. Balberg3061.42%
TotalStuart A. Balberg1,6617.71%
Total votes21,534 100%
Democratic hold

New York City Public Advocate

2013 New York City Public Advocate Democratic Primary [49]
PartyCandidateVotes%
Democratic Letitia James 191,347 36.11%
Democratic Daniel Squadron 178,151 33.62%
Democratic Reshma Saujani 76,98314.53%
Democratic Cathy Guerriero69,02513.03%
Democratic Sidique Wai14,4092.72%
Total votes529,915 100%
2013 New York City Public Advocate Democratic Primary Runoff [50]
PartyCandidateVotes%
Democratic Letitia James119,60459.02%
Democratic Daniel Squadron 83,04340.98%
Total votes202,647 100%
2013 New York City Public Advocate General Election [51]
PartyCandidateVotes%
Democratic Letitia James761,05877.87%
Working Families Letitia James53,8215.51%
TotalLetitia James 814,879 83.37%
Conservative Robert Maresca119,76812.25%
Green James Lane16,9741.74%
Libertarian Alex Merced10,4191.07%
Socialist Workers Deborah O. Liatos5,1140.52%
War VeteransIrene Estrada4,2160.43%
Students FirstMollina G. Fabricant2,3910.24%
Freedom PartyMichael K. Lloyd1,7990.18
Total votes975,560 100%
Democratic hold
2013 New York City Public Advocate Democratic Primary [52]
PartyCandidateVotes%
Democratic Letitia James (incumbent) 300,301 76.50%
Democratic David Eisenbach92,24623.50%
Total votes392,547 100%
2017 New York City Public Advocate General Election [53]
PartyCandidateVotes%
Democratic Letitia James186,91673.10%
Working Families Letitia James16,5866.49%
TotalLetitia James (incumbent) 203,502 79.58%
Republican Juan Carlos Polanco31,20612.20%
Reform Juan Carlos Polanco1,7040.67%
Stop De BlasioJuan Carlos Polcano9880.39%
TotalJuan Carlos Polcano33,89813.26%
Conservative Michael A. O'Reilly9,8683.86%
Green James C. Lane6,1602.41%
Libertarian Devin Balkin2,2760.89%
Total votes255,704 100%
Democratic hold

New York Attorney General

2018 New York Attorney General Democratic Primary [54]
PartyCandidateVotes%
Democratic Letitia James 608,308 38.53%
Democratic Zephyr Teachout468,08329.65%
Democratic Sean Patrick Maloney379,09924.02%
Democratic Leecia Eve52,3673.32%
Total votes1,578,588 100%
2018 New York Attorney General General Election [55]
PartyCandidateVotes%
Democratic Letitia James3,497,21358.38%
Working Families Letitia James152,3502.54%
Independence Letitia James89,6761.50%
TotalLetitia James 3,739,239 62.42%
Republican Keith Wofford1,851,51030.91%
Conservative Keith Wofford257,0904.29%
TotalKeith Wofford2,108,60035.20%
Green Michael Sussman72,5121.21%
Libertarian Christopher Garvey43,7670.73
Reform Nancy Sliwa26,4410.44%
Total votes5,990,559 100%
Democratic hold

See also

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Political offices
Preceded by
James Davis
Member of the New York City Council
from the 35th district

2004–2013
Succeeded by
Laurie Cumbo
Preceded by
Bill de Blasio
Public Advocate of New York City
2014–2018
Succeeded by
Corey Johnson
Acting
Party political offices
Preceded by
Eric Schneiderman
Democratic nominee for Attorney General of New York
2018
Most recent
Legal offices
Preceded by
Barbara Underwood
Attorney General of New York
2019–present
Incumbent