Keith H. Wofford, Republican and Letitia “Tish” James Democrat
No Matter Who Wins The Race, New York Will Have Its First Black Attorney General
by Nanette D. Massey
Can being Black, from Buffalo, and a Republican Trump supporter be a winning strategy in a race for political office in 2018? Keith Wofford, the Republican candidate for N.Y. State sure hopes so.
Republicanism as a philosophy, at our nation’s birth, based itself on the idea of personal liberty as hallowed ground, owing to specific rights naturally endowed to individuals that could not be altered by laws.
Republicans were responsible for much of the Reconstruction legislation after the Civil War, and the Black populace was solidly Republican for generations. Today, many Blacks associate the GOP with the divide-and-conquer “Southern Strategy,” President Reagan’s heavy reliance on the term “welfare queen,” and trickle down economic theories that many communities are still waiting to feel the moisture of.
Into this hippodrome steps Keith Wofford, who lived all his Buffalo life on Winslow Street near the Kehr Street fire station. The zip code’s per capita income is less than $15K today. He was hardly a product of destiny’s inner circle. His mom accompanied him to the downtown library and stayed on him about his studies. To her, education wasn’t just about getting a job. It was about “having the freedom of self control and self determination,” he explained. ” With your mind you can advance yourself and that can never be taken away from you no matter what happens with your external circumstances.”
The Republican mantra is so often about being self-made with limited external help. Wofford isn’t shy about acknowledging outside influences that have contributed to his success. He credits the Gifted Math Program at SUNY Buffalo, the encouragement of Frank Mesiah through the NAACP’s Afro-Academic, Cultural, Technological and Scientific Olympics (ACT-SO) and the 1976 court case Arthur v. Nyquist which ushered desegregation into Buffalo and created magnet schools such as his alma mater, City Honors. “My parents were fabulous,” he continued, “but they were working class regular folks. You really didn’t know what was going on with the entrance processes to elite colleges, the high end of the white collar job market, all that information came in through people who reached out to me and helped me.”
Wofford left City Honors at the end of his junior year with an acceptance letter to Harvard University in tow. He took the SAT exam early, and they reached out to him at a time when they were famously taking baby steps to diversify their racial and socio-economic make up. He went further with Harvard Law School. Today Wofford is a partner at a Manhattan “white shoe” law firm. (What is “white shoe”? Let’s just say if Wofford’s firm were a rap artist, they’d party with Kendrick Lamar, Wu-Tang, and Jay Z.)
Wofford, 49, is your classic trim the spending Republican, which is usually dog whistle for gutting spending to services to low and moderate income families. Wofford says his office would not be interested in initiatives that would shave school budgets or come for your food stamps. He believes there is enough waste and corruption to be reigned in that we can “get to point A from point B without beating up on working class people who are just trying to get to the end of their week….
There’s a bigger con game going on at all our expense.” The state has a spending budget currently of $170 billion. The biggest spending growth is in the area of Medicaid. That unbridled growth lends itself to fraud and abuse and that’s what he’d be going after. Not to mention the rigged Buffalo Billions contracts, bribes valued at $300K funneled to the likes of Cuomo aid Joe Percoco, and the NY City subway extension whose cost clocked in at nearly $2 billion per mile. Wofford believes the main problem with this position in the past has been it’s enticement as a stepping stone along the path to bigger political aspirations, giving us people who aren’t necessarily focused on just doing their best job for the citizens of New York. Over 20 years successfully into his career as a lawyer, Wofford will be doing fine, thank you very much, no matter the outcome of this election or the bruised egos of higher ups in the party expecting his deference should he win.
“I saw this as a once in a generation opportunity to get someone in that office… who just wanted to do a great job for the people.” He’s won the endorsement of Buffalo News’ editorial board who believe his claim that his focus will be NY State. He hopes Buffalo’s East Side Black population will give him a chance too.
For more on his platform issues and views go to www.wofford4ag.com
As the Democratic Party’s nominee for State Attorney General, Brooklyn’s Letitia “Tish” James has the historic distinction of becoming the first Black woman nominated to a statewide position by one of the major political parties.
Her tie to Buffalo lies in the fact that she worked in the state legislature for ten years and was council to the Committee on Corporations, Authorities and Commissions and council to The Black and Puerto Rican Legislative Caucus. As such, she had occasion to work with New York State Assemblyman Arthur O. Eve, famous Buffalo political icon and one of the founding members of this paper. She recalled working on legislation regarding The Peace Bridge, and Roswell Park hospital.
James, 60, followed her life’s aspirations to Howard Law School. She said she always wanted to be a lawyer, inspired as a youngster by the likes of Justice Thurgood Marshall, congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, and the fiery speech of Texas Senator Barbara Jordan as she appealed to the House Judiciary Committee on behalf of impeaching President Nixon in 1974.
She went to work for the Legal Aid Society. “Defense work was my calling because you had to think on your feet,” she stated.”It was an opportunity to stand up for individuals who were wrongly accused. Unfortunately, our criminal justice system criminalizes too many people of color.” Letitia James has been the public advocate of New York City since 2014 and is the first woman of color to hold the office. Before becoming public advocate, she was a city council member, an assistant attorney general and a public defender. As public advocate, James has consistently fought for tenants’ rights, and last year she introduced legislation that bans questions about salary history in the city.
As the Attorney General, James would be serving as essentially as “the people’s lawyer, representing the interests of meting out justice.” Her office will have a role in defending the state’s citizens in such actions as the famous case taken up against Trump University. She also has overturning the 2010 Citizens United Supreme Court decision regarding campaign contributions by corporate donors in her sites, along with protecting the state against fraudulent Medicaid spending, and extending the power of her office to become involved in determining whether or not a crime was committed in officer involved shootings. She also has vowed to focus on several other issues, including the affordable housing crisis and lead poisoning in parts of the state., protecting our environment, tackling Wall Street abuses and protecting immigrants and women’s rights.
Although James’ candidacy is backed by Governor Cuomo, she wishes to make it clear that she too is an independent, wanting to distance herself from any hint of cronyism or obligation to Cuomo’s scandal laden administration.
Her complete platform can be found on TishJames2018.com.
There is also a local office here in Buffalo at 1327 Jefferson Avenue, open most days from one in the afternoon, where anyone can pick up James lawn signs.
Free Rides To The Polls Offered To Voters With Disabilities
On Election Day Democracy Rides, sponsored by the Monroe County-City of Rochester Council for People with Disabilities, will once again be offering free rides to the polls on Election Day. The service will be available on Nov. 6 on a first-come, firstserved basis for anyone with a disability who needs a ride to his or her polling place. Wheelchair-accessible vans will be available. To arrange a ride, call one of the service providers listed below no later than Friday, Nov. 2. Transportation providers this year are: •Medical Motors: 585-654-7030 •MediCab: 585-342-7150
Candidates for Attorney General Face Off ( as reported by Spectrum News)
Democrat Letitia James and Republican Keith Wofford, the leading candidates for one of the top legal positions in the country, faced off on Spectrum News last Tuesday night in their only live televised debate before Election Day.
New York’s attorney general is seen as one of the top legal positions in the country, especially given the office’s numerous legal challenges to the Trump Foundation and administration.
But in the wake of former attorney general Eric Schneiderman abruptly resigning in May after multiple women accused him of physical assault, a political vacuum has opened up for the powerful position. James and Wofford debated if the attorney general’s office should continue lawsuits against the Trump administration.
James said she supports the litigation that the current attorney general, Barbara Underwood, has filed, while Wofford wouldn’t commit to continuing all of them. He said, instead, that he didn’t want New York taxpayers funding politically-motivated litigation.
Both candidates said they would crack down on Albany corruption, but James said she wants more legal authority from the legislature to do so. Wofford, meanwhile, chided her, saying the attorney general’s office already has legal tools if state officials are embroiled in corruption. Wofford also hit James for her close relationship to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who she has campaigned with, and the state legislature, saying she would not be a reliable check on them; James argued she would fight against corruption no matter where it comes from.
James, meanwhile, argued that Wofford would have conflicts of interest if he is elected, saying that his prior experience in private litigation would not make him beholden to corporations. Wofford denied that he would be beholden to former clients.
Recent polls found that the race is closer than expected, with an early-October Siena College poll showing James leading Wofford by 14 percentage points, 50 percent to 36 percent.