ALBANY, N.Y. — Barbara Underwood, thrust into the job as New York state’s chief legal officer when Eric Schneiderman abruptly resigned amid allegations he abused woman, said Tuesday she won’t seek election to the attorney general’s positon.
Underwood told state lawmakers that she’s not interested in running for office November and intends only to serve out the rest of Schneiderman’s term if the Legislature appoints her interim attorney general. Under state law, the Legislature has the authority to appoint an attorney general, should the job become vacant.
“I don’t think any of us expected to be sitting here today. But we are here, after deeply disturbing allegations that shocked me and many others,” Underwood told a bipartisan legislative committee interviewing 13 attorney general applicants over two days in Albany. Underwood, the solicitor general who is serving as acting attorney general, led off.
Schneiderman resigned last week following a report by The New Yorker magazine that he physically abused four women he had dated. Schneiderman has denied the accusations.
In her opening statement, Underwood, 73, detailed her experience in the legal field, from serving as law clerk for the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall to working as a federal and New York City prosecutor. She was appointed New York solicitor general, the state’s No. 2 legal position, by then-Attorney General Andrew Cuomo in 2007.
“I think all that will help me do this job,” Underwood said.
After answering lawmakers’ questions for an hour, she held her first news conference since being sworn in May 8, a day after The New Yorker posted its article that led just hours later to Schneiderman’s resignation. Four women told the magazine Schneiderman, 63, physically and verbally abused them while they dated the attorney general, a Democrat who was running for a third four-year term.
Among the other candidates interviewed Wednesday were state Assemblyman Daniel J. O’Donnell of Manhattan, actress Rosie O’Donnell’s brother, and Elizabeth Holtzman, a former congresswoman and New York City comptroller.
U.S. Rep. Kathleen Rice, a Long Island Democrat who was considering running for attorney general, announced Tuesday that she’ll instead seek a third term in Congress.
Candidates interested in the attorney general’s job but who skipped the interview process include New York City Public Advocate Letitia James; Zephyr Teachout, whom Cuomo defeated in the 2014 Democratic gubernatorial primary and state Sen. Michael Gianaris, a Queens Democrat.
James registered Monday with the state Board of Elections for a campaign committee to raise money for a run for attorney general.
Cuomo, who’s running for a third term, has said he has his own favorites for consideration, among them his staff counsel, Alphonso David. Republicans have criticized Cuomo for chiming in on the attorney general selection process, saying the state’s top legal agency must remain independent from the governor’s office.