ALBANY — Democrat Assemblyman Phil Steck endorsed constitutional lawyer Zephyr Teachout in the Democratic primary for New York state attorney general on Monday.
Steck, also a civil rights attorney, cited Teachout’s legal expertise and aversion to establishment fundraising as his main reasons for endorsing her in the primary.
“I think there’s a lot of value to the public in someone who has taken a grassroots approach in getting elected,” Steck said.
Teachout, who previously ran for governor in a primary against Andrew Cuomo and mounted an unsuccessful bid for Congress in the 19th District against Republican U.S. Rep. John Faso, will go up against other well-known Democrats in the Sept. 13 primary. U.S. Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, D-Cold Spring, and New York City Public Advocate Letitia “Tish” James, who was endorsed by Gov. Cuomo in May.
For her part, Teachout, who stayed at the Stockade Inn in Schenectady the night before the announcement, said she was “thrilled” to receive Steck’s endorsement, adding that she and the assemblyman share quite a bit legally and philosophically.
“Phil Steck ran [for Assembly] six years ago without establishment support, and he’s a civil rights lawyer, he’s independent, and it means a lot that for people to have an independent attorney general, someone that will really be answering to people of the state — someone who will speak out against the governor, when we disagree, and speak out against the Assembly,” Teachout said.
For Steck, Teachout’s campaign track record was something he thinks she will be able to use to her advantage.
“I also think she has a lot of experience running in her past two elections, which were very difficult, so that the next person who becomes attorney general has the humility to do the job properly,” Steck said.
Much of Teachout’s campaign for AG centers around her vision of the office as a check on the Trump administration, furthering actions taken by former-Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and acting AG Barbara Underwood against President Trump, as well as his businesses and foundation.
“The president of the United States and the Trump administration are so far overstepping the bounds that we are in extraordinary times, and we need an attorney general who is willing to use all the tools, and to be very aggressive, as well as having an expertise in constitutional and business law,” Teachout said.
Steck added that while some voters may feel uncomfortable with a more aggressive role for the AG, pursuing legal action against the Trump administration is in keeping with the ethos of the attorney general position.
“I think unfortunately, there are people in this country who would like to see a more authoritarian government where the president is above the law,” Steck said. “That is not how this country is supposed to work.”
Another important factor in the race cited by both Steck and Teachout is that her campaign will not accept corporate donations from LLCs.
“This is a year where, from what I hear across the state, is that people are fed up with the power of corporate money [in politics],” Teachout said. “We’re in a momentum moment, and Phil Steck is part of that, and I’m really excited to have his support and to be the next attorney general for the State of New York.”