The New York State Attorney General’s office is vacant following the resignation of Eric Schneiderman amid accusations of aggressive sexual behavior from four women. The appointment to fill that vacancy will be determined by a joint ballot of both chambers of the State Legislature, functionally giving the Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie — whose caucus membership greatly outnumbers the other chamber.
A vast range of names have been floated to replace Schniederman, but one name is resonating in the heart and mind of Heastie more strongly than the others. Sources tell The Chronicle that Heastie is considering the appointment of Preet Bharara, the former United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, well known as a corruption crusading prosecutor before he was fired by President Donald Trump, presumably to shut down an investigation that his office had been conducting of the President at the time.
Heastie is worried that Special Counsel Robert Muller’s investigation is on the verge of being shutdown and wants to ensure that the President is held to account — perhaps by empowering Bharara to enforce the laws of the State of New York. The President, after all, has no authority to pardon himself or others from State-level crimes.
Expect Democrats, and a lot of Republicans for that matter, to applaud the appointment of Bharara — except one: Governor Andrew Cuomo, whose administration has become engulfed with the wide ranging bid rigging scandal in which Bharara indicted eight prominent Cuomo contributors and political operatives.
Cuomo’s displeasure is unlikely to prevent the appointment. The political winds have shifted decidedly to the left inside the Democratic Party, and Heastie has a better sense of that shift than Cuomo and other Democrats further removed from New York City’s activist community. It’s widely known that Heastie privately predicts that Cynthia Nixon is likely to win the primary.
Heastie sees his presence in Albany as a long term and institutional force, whose presence will emerge stronger in the aftermath of the Cuomo administration’s bid rigging scandals, the Attorney General’s resignation, and the looming Senate leadership battle. Heastie intends to control the Assembly for the next twenty years.
If Nixon is elected Governor, and Andrea Stewart-Cousins assumes control of the Senate chamber, Heastie sees himself as leading the triumvirate in terms of stature, tenure, and savvy — a center of gravity capable of driving a progressive agenda.
Heastie also hopes that the appointment will mobilize the large Indian-American community in and around New York City, a monied demographic that participates in politics at a relatively low rate.