If you’re into politics, next year in New York will be like the Oscars, Emmys and the Tony awards all rolled into one.
Every legislative and congressional seat will be up for grabs. Plus, there will be new district maps to navigate. All the statewide offices are up for re-election too, including governor, lieutenant governor, comptroller and attorney general.
Since current Attorney General Letitia James has set her eyes on the governor’s office, the race for her seat will likely be especially competitive.
Look back at the 2018 race for attorney general. The seat was vacated by Eric Schneiderman, who resigned in disgrace after journalist Ronan Farrow laid bare Schneiderman’s unusual private life in The New Yorker magazine. Now-Solicitor General Barbara Underwood temporarily held the seat for a few months, but during her tenure, the race to be her successor became a crowded affair. Letitia James, Leecia Eve, Zephyr Teachout and U.S. Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney duked it out in the Democratic primary.
The general election included Republican Keith Wofford, who was trounced by James 62.4% to 35.2%.
The 2022 race for attorney general may be even more bruising.
So far, there are two candidates who have filed paperwork to run for the office that Tish James currently occupies, and at least seven other possible candidates, including Deputy Senate Majority Leader Mike Gianaris, who told Capital Tonight, “I am seriously considering running on my unmatched record of progressive accomplishments.”
Before winning a seat in the Legislature, Mayer served as chief counsel to the New York State Senate Democrats. She has also served as senior counsel at the National State Attorney General Program at Columbia Law School.
But Mayer started honing her chops as a potential A.G. candidate back in 1982 when she served as a public advocate in the Buffalo regional office of Attorney General Robert Abrams.
Her first big case dealt with age discrimination.
“The first big case I had was representing four older women waitresses, and other older women, who were fired by the national Holiday Inns chain as they decided to move to the sexier, younger woman model,” she recalled. “We took on the national Holiday Inns corporation on behalf of all the older women working in New York state based on age and sex discrimination.”
The case landed her on the Phil Donohue Show, where she appeared with the four women who had been fired.
For over 12 years, Mayer worked in the Office of the Attorney General in various capacities, including in the Civil Rights Bureau, where she brought some of the major reproductive health cases of the 1980s. She also served as the first head of the Westchester Office of the Attorney General, and later became counsel to the attorney general.
When asked what she sees as the attorney general’s primary role, Mayer responded that it was to make changes in the lives of ordinary people.
“Bob Abrams’ hallmark was the used-car lemon law, changing the way people bought used cars,” Mayer said. “There are all these specific, largely civil powers of the attorney general that will change the lives of New Yorkers.”
When Eliot Spitzer was attorney general, he was the self-proclaimed “Sheriff of Wall Street." Current A.G. Letitia James’ focus has been split among hammering out opioid settlements and prosecuting former President Donald Trump.
When asked what her focus would be if she won the seat, Mayer said “several things."
“Consumer protection, particularly as we recover from COVID. Ensuring that, in terms of credit cards, insurance, all the issues that people deal with, that we have all the protections [required],” she said.
Mayer also received some high praise from a colleague and potential opponent in the race.
“I love Shelley Mayer,” Sen. Mike Gianaris told Capital Tonight. “She’s a great colleague.”