A former member of Pres. Bill Clinton’s executive administrative staff, and an openly gay man, hosted a West Village fund-raiser on June 14 and formally announced his candidacy for New York State attorney general.
Sean Maloney, an attorney who gained notice during his tenure in Washington as the former president’s highest-ranking gay appointee, in his first run for elected office, joins Mark Green, the former New York City public advocate, and Andrew Cuomo, the former Clinton administration secretary of Housing and Urban Development, in seeking the Democratic nomination for the state’s top law enforcement post.
Speaking before a throng of supporters at the home of Tony Moran, a popular music promoter, Maloney said of the attorney general’s post, “This is the best job in New York politics.”
Maloney said he sees the power of the attorney general’s office as a way to “fight for the little guy.”
Maloney said he would follow in the footsteps of Democratic Attorney Gen. Eliot Spitzer—who has declined to seek re-election in order to mount a gubernatorial bid—and would run the office as an “independent and professional.”
By any standard, Maloney’s decision to enter the race is an ambitious gambit. Never having held elected political office, Maloney lacks the name recognition and political experience of his opponents. Green is a Democratic stalwart known for his failed mayoral and senatorial runs, while Cuomo, the son of former Gov. Mario Cuomo, ran for governor in 2002 before bowing out to concede the nomination to H. Carl McCall whom Republican Gov. George Pataki beat in the general election.
However, Maloney’s fund-raising strength may somewhat level the electoral playing field. Thus far, he has been raising $100,000 a month for his campaign, and in this past January’s campaign finance filing, Maloney listed more individual contributors than any other candidate.
New York State, which overwhelmingly voted for Sen. John Kerry over Pres. George W. Bush in the last presidential election, has a plurality of registered Democrats and in many ways the party’s office seekers are expected to earn their stripes before setting their sights on statewide office. When asked why, for example, he does not first seek a New York City Council seat, Maloney said his decision to enter the attorney general’s race was about “doing what it is in your heart” and finding that job that best matched his skills.
Having worked as a corporate attorney at Willkie, Farr and Gallagher—a Democratic powerhouse, where former Gov. Cuomo works—as a specialist in complex litigation, Maloney said he is particularly adept at managing complex financial and criminal investigations.
Maloney emphasized that his run isn’t a “vanity project,” explaining that he is not “running in this race just to do it.”
When asked what delineated his candidacy from those of his opponents, Maloney said that he is a “professional, independent attorney who is willing to take on the public sector.”
The remark is an indication that Maloney seeks to follow Spitzer’s lead, and perhaps earn some of the attorney general’s high approval ratings, by taking on corporate corruption and high-profile prosecutions of securities fraud that involve specialized investigative arms of the attorney general’s office.
Like Maloney, Spitzer worked at a high-profile law firm before his first successful run for his current job. Maloney also pointed out that he regards Eliot Spitzer as independent-minded, a trait he emulates, and argued that “he will run the attorney general’s office like a law firm.”
Maloney made it clear on Tuesday night that he is not running as “the gay candidate, but rather as the best candidate who happens to be gay.”
Undoubtedly, though, Maloney is aware that New York voters have never elected an openly gay or lesbian candidate to statewide office.
With that in mind, Maloney voiced his intention to form a broad-based coalition of support.
“The campaign has to appeal to a much larger community,” he said, indicating his intention to make inroads in communities of traditionally Democratic voters to amass enough votes to win his party’s primary.
Maloney said he firmly believes that it is time that elected gay officials “take a seat at the table.”
Maloney and his partner of 12 years, Randy Florke, live in Manhattan with their three adopted children.
Maloney said that for him, the challenges of his first race for office are not money and support. In fact, Maloney insisted that he “can raise the money and win the race.”
The biggest challenge of this race, Maloney said, “is staying true to your heart when the temptation comes to babble or be safe or conventional.”