With Primary Win, Letitia James Inches Closer to Being 1st Black Woman to Win Statewide Office in New York

Illustration for article titled With Primary Win, Letitia James Inches Closer to Being 1st Black Woman to Win Statewide Office in New York
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On Thursday night, New York City public advocate Letitia “Tish” James won the Democratic primary to become the state’s attorney general in a packed and competitive field. With her victory, James edges closer to being the first black woman elected to a statewide office, should she win the seat in the November.


She beat out US Rep. Sean Maloney, Fordham University professor and attorney Zephyr Teachout, and Leecia Eve, a Verizon executive and former Hillary Clinton aide, Vox reports.

Turnout for the Democratic primaries was double that of 2014, reports WLNY TV.

James was backed by the state’s Democratic Party and was endorsed by current governor Andrew Cuomo; this helped push her to the front of the race, but it also pegged her as the establishment candidate.

But it wasn’t just that James had establishment support. Among the packed field, Teachout stood out. Some progressive voters felt the professor, who participated in the Occupy Wall Street protests of 2011, would be more likely to keep abuses of power in check.

As Vox notes, this frustrated James, who told New York magazine, “In May, I was the progressive darling, and now I am the Establishment.”

As Terrell Jermaine Starr reported for The Root, James has in fact taken on the establishment many times before, opposing the construction of the Barclays Center in downtown Brooklyn as a city councilor. As a public advocate, James sued New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office nearly a dozen times.


“I’m going to continue to be the people’s lawyer,” James said after her win.

On the whole, it was a disappointing night for progressives. Cynthia Nixon failed to oust Governor Cuomo in the Democratic primary; the incumbent defeated Nixon with 66 percent of the vote. Nixon’s running mate, Jumaane Williams, also lost out to incumbent Kathy Hochul for the state’s lieutenant governor (in New York, candidates for governor and lieutenant governor run on separate tickets during the primary, but on the same ballot during the general election).


Responding to his loss via Twitter, the New York City councilman wrote, “Listen, we did the damn thing tonight! And I thank you all.”

“I so appreciate each and every volunteer, staffer & voter. We even saw accountability with the #BlueWave and #NoIDC”—a reference to the Independent Democratic Conference, a group of state senators elected to office as Democrats but who align with Republicans.


“Be only encouraged,” Williams said.



Staff writer, The Root.


Manitos, The Tiny Hands of Trump

Tisha James and (ugh) Cuomo rode the wave of black and Latino votes to victory. “Progressives” need to take note and start making their message palpable to more than just the lily white if they want more than just isolated, infrequent victories.

James said it best:

“Progressive rhetoric alone is not enough — people are struggling just to survive here, and they need to see real substantive policies that address racial, gender and economic inequality.”