September 21, 2018


If elected, Keith Wofford – the Republican candidate for New York State Attorney General – promised he would launch an investigation into systemic state and local political corruption immediately after being sworn into office.

The Buffalo native campaigned in Binghamton Friday.

Wofford is challenging Democrat and NYC public advocate Letitia James, who won a four-way-primary last Thursday.

Wofford pointed to the vast resources and authority of New York’s attorney general to root out corruption.

Both candidates have made cleaning up Albany a central theme in their campaigns. They are seeking the seat held once held by Eric Schneiderman, who abruptly resigned in May after four women told The New Yorker he had physically abused them.


September 19, 2018

Gotham Gazette

A native of Buffalo with a working-class background, Wofford is a Harvard-educated attorney and co-managing partner at Ropes & Gray, an international white-shoe law firm based in New York City. He previously worked as a senior securitization analyst at Moody’s Corporation.

Wofford became the first African-American Republican nominee for attorney general at the May convention. “The first thing the next attorney general has to do is to get the corruption in government under control,” Wofford said in a campaign video released Monday. “The corruption we tolerate in our state government is holding us back.” Just last week, the night of the Thursday primary, Wofford’s campaign launched its first television ad, part of a $3.25 million ad buy which will air statewide. The ad buy is indicative of Wofford’s strong early fundraising, possibly helping him compete against James, the Democratic nominee, who had to spend much of her initial haul on a tough primary.

A first-time candidate with little name recognition across the state, Wofford indicated in Monday’s video that he wants to use the office of attorney general “to make sure that we have an environment, legally, that makes it possible for jobs and business to grow in this state.” He also wants the office to focus on “the big villains, the people who are doing real damage to citizens and taxpayers,” though he did not explain who those villains are.

Painting himself as an outsider to he political system, he said he doesn’t have to cut deals to be elected, which could be seen as a dig at James, who won her primary with help from Cuomo and the Democratic establishment. Wofford has also promised to tackle the opioid epidemic, leveraging the office’s power to investigate opioid manufacturers and distributors.

In interviews, Wofford has signaled a far different approach than the current office has taken to respond to federal policies under Trump. “The last attorney general [Eric Schneiderman, who resigned earlier this year amid domestic abuse allegations] talked about resisting the federal government and it was clear…that was motivated to establish a partisan political position,” he told the Watertown Daily Times last week.

On Tuesday Wofford announced his intention to, if elected, immediately begin investigating what his campaign called “systemic corruption involving state and local government officials across the state.” In doing so, Wofford sought to distance himself from James, who has said she will seek legislative approval of the authority to broadly investigate public corruption, which she and others have said the attorney general does not currently have.

“Unlike Democratic candidate Letitia James who has said she must receive the Legislature’s authorization to investigate corruption, the law is clear that the People’s Lawyer has both the constitutional and statutory duty and right to represent the people’s interests,” Wofford said in a press release. “From day one as New York State Attorney General, I will use every tool at my disposal to fight corruption and protect taxpayers.”


September 17, 2018

New York Post

New York’s major parties have done something new this year: Each has nominated an African-American for attorney general. That not only guarantees the winner will become New York’s first black AG, it also makes this the first ever black-vs.-black statewide campaign here.

Carl McCall was the first black statewide nominee when he won the comptroller job in 1994. But this is an even bigger landmark.

In this heavily Democratic state, Brooklyn’s Tish James is the clear favorite. But she’d be a major contender in any case: As the city’s public advocate, she did a first-rate job holding Mayor Bill de Blasio to account. And she’s just proved her political talents by triumphing in a tough four-way primary.

Her Republican opponent is Buffalo native Keith Wofford, a Harvard-educated lawyer and co-managing partner at Ropes & Gray, a Midtown law firm.

Naturally, the two promise starkly distinct approaches to the AG’s job.

James vows to thwart President Trump’s “agenda” and to patrol Wall Street. She’s said a lot less about fighting the rampant corruption in state government. Cynics suggest she’s unlikely to rock that boat after Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the rest of the Democratic establishment lined up behind her.

Wofford, meanwhile, has pledged to investigate public corruption wherever it exists. Promising to bring independence and private-sector experience to the job, he says he’ll take care in the use of the Martin Act to play “Sheriff of Wall Street.” Abuse of those powers, he warns, can be as harmful to the state’s business climate as public corruption.

Wofford doesn’t want New York creating and enforcing its own immigration laws. He’d concentrate his energy on tackling education, drugs, guns and youth violence.

The two, in short, will have plenty to debate while they’re making history.


September 14, 2018

NY State of Politics

Republican attorney general candidate Keith Wofford on Friday released his first TV ad as the focus in the race turns to the general election.

Wofford, an attorney originally from Buffalo, stands in his old neighborhood and speaks directly on camera.

“You know, being in this neighborhood really reminds me why I got into this race,” he said. People who are all working together for the same thing, which is to try to make better lives for their kids. But, the headwinds have been tough. Money goes into our government and doesn’t go where it’s supposed to go. But when I’m elected Attorney General, that’s going to be something that changes.”

Wofford is set to face New York City Public Advocate Letitia James, the victor of the four-way Democratic primary on Thursday.

The office is an open one after the resignation of Eric Schneiderman in May amid allegations of sexual abuse and domestic violence. Incumbent Barbara Underwood, appointed by the Legislature in May, is not seeking a full term.




September 14, 2018

New York Daily News

ALBANY – Hours before the polls closed Thursday night for the Democratic state attorney general primary, Republican candidate Keith Wofford kicked off a hefty $3.25 million statewide television ad campaign.

The ad, which his campaign says will run for several weeks on broadcast and cable TV, is designed to introduce the little-known Wofford, a Manhattan corporate lawyer, to voters by highlighting his upbringing in Buffalo.

“Being in this neighborhood really reminds me why I got into this race,” Wofford says in the ad. “People who are all working together for the same thing, which is to try to make better lives for their kids.

“But the headwinds have been tough. Money goes into our government and doesn’t go where it’s supposed to go.”

Wofford vows in the ad that if elected attorney general, he will tackle Albany corruption.

“Because as attorney general, you can stop the politicians from ripping people off, and you can start the government doing what they’re supposed to do with your money,” he said.

The ad buy is significant for a first-time candidate who in July reported having raised just over $1 million in his first few weeks in the race.

Wofford will get some help raising money from the financial sector when former AIG chairman Hank Greenberg, The Home Depot founder Ken Langone and billionaire Paul Singer host a fundraising lunch for the GOP candidate on Oct. 1.

Tickets range from $5,000 to the maximum $44,000 contribution.

Wofford on Thursday also unveiled a three-minute biographical video on his campaign website.

He will square off on Nov. 6 against Democrat Letitia James, the New York City Public Advocate who won the four-way primary Thursday against Fordham Law Prof. Zephyr Teachout, Hudson Valley Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, and former Gov. Cuomo and Hillary Clinton aide Leecia Eve.

Wofford and James are both vying to become the state’s first black attorney general.

Wofford has an uphill climb. Not only do Democrats outnumber Republicans in New York by a 2 to 1 margin, but the GOP has not won a statewide race since George Pataki was elected to a third term as governor in 2002.

The last Republican to win a state attorney general’s race was Dennis Vacco in 1994. He served one term before losing to Democrat Eliot Spitzer.


September 13, 2018

WAMC Northeast Public Radio

The four-way primary among Democrats running to succeed Eric Schneiderman and Barbara Underwood as attorney general has been getting a lot of attention on this primary day. The winner will face a general election matchup with Keith Wofford, as well as Green Party hopeful Michael Sussman. Originally from Buffalo, Wofford has taken a leave of absence from a New York City law firm to run. The Republican tells WAMC’s North Country Bureau Chief Pat Bradley that  he decided to run because there hasn’t been enough focus from state officials on the working and middle class — not to mention eliminating corruption.

“I grew up upstate in Buffalo, New York and I had a lot of great things come to me in life because of my parents who worked very hard. And I had all these good things come to me in this country and growing up in Upstate New York because we had a private sector and a public sector that worked together to help working class and middle class people move forward and help their families move forward. Now 35, 40 years later things are different. We have a government that doesn’t help the people move forward as much as it helps themselves. There are politicians who are rigging bids. There are politicians who are taking bribes and there is unfortunately another larger group that isn’t stopping them from doing it and first and foremost in that other group is the Attorney General of this state. We’ve had three attorney generals in the past 12 years who have pledged to clean up corruption. But despite that we’ve had scandal after scandal after scandal and it’s not just that we’re not putting people in jail it’s that the costs of corruption are making it near impossible for New Yorkers and small businesses and even large businesses to function here.”


September 12, 2018

The Examiner News

With a crowded Democratic primary for New York State Attorney General set for this week, the established GOP nominee for the top statewide law enforcement office took a trip to Brewster vowing to keep health insurance companies honest.

Manhattan-based attorney Keith Wofford is running for public office for the first time in his life as he goes up against a hostile environment for Republicans, especially in a blue state like New York. But Wofford said the state needs a person who’s going to work for the taxpayers and not for other politicians. Vowing to brush aside “insider politics,” Wofford has been crisscrossing the state, which included a stop in Brewster last week.

Joined by NYS Sen. Terrence Murphy, Assemblyman Kevin Byrne, and Drug Crisis in Our Backyard co-founders Susan and Steve Salomone, Wofford spoke about ensuring health insurance companies allow residents suffering from drug addiction to stay in rehab programs for the required amount of time. Murphy helped pass legislation in 2016 that cut some of the red tape for addicts seeking treatment because of health insurance constraints, but some of those insurance companies are still making it difficult.

During the press conference, Wofford said the law makes clear that insurance companies need to provide the pre- requisite amount of time for those suffering from an addiction and seeking professional help. As attorney general, Wofford said he would make sure insurance companies follow the law.

Murphy said he wants an attorney general who will stick up to insurance companies and allow people that need help fighting an addiction to remain in treatment centers longer than insurance companies would like. The legislation that was passed to help addicts isn’t working because insurance companies aren’t “living up to their end of the bargain,” Murphy said.

“It’s life or death,” Murphy said. “This has nothing to do with politics. It has everything to do with saving lives.”

In an interview following the press briefing, Wofford explained his vision for the AG’s office if he’s elected.

Wofford said the last three attorney generals — Democrats Andrew Cuomo, Elliot Spitzer, and Eric Schneiderman — were not concerned with “the people’s business.”

“There’s an opportunity now to make a change,” he said. “It’s so clear we have a problem with corruption, we have a huge problem with chasing business out of the state, we have a huge problem with attorney generals twisting the law and using the law for political purposes and because that crisis is so clear to voters, (political) party is not going to matter.”

Wofford will find out who his Democratic opponent for the general election is Thursday night, when primary voters go to the polls to select the Democratic nominee. The four-way race is between Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney, New York City advocate Letitia James, law professor Zephyr Teachout, and former Hillary Clinton senior policy advisor Leecia Eve.

All four of the candidates have focused heavily on Republican President Donald Trump during their campaigns. Wofford hopes to exchange ideas about the problems this state is facing, rather than concentrate on a national figure.

Voters that Wofford have spoken to say they continue to see “headline after headline” how New York is handling business the wrong way. When Schneiderman resigned after he was credibly accused of abusing women he formerly dated, Wofford said it was just another example of the poor conduct New Yorkers don’t want.

“People are just tired of it,” Wofford said. “They want someone working for them and not for themselves and not for the other politicians.”

When discussing the current state of the AG’s office, Wofford said he questioned the countless lawsuits being doled out by interim Attorney General Barbara Underwood, stating there is no clarity how these legal actions will help taxpayers.

Underwood, like her predecessor Schneiderman, has filed multiple lawsuits against the Trump administration. The notion that a dozen lawsuits are filed in a political year reeks of political motivation, Wofford said.

“You’ve got to focus on and prioritize on what’s most meaningful to working class people, small businesses, middle class people and people who create jobs in this state,” Wofford said.


September 11, 2018

The Sun Community News & Printing 

Keith Wofford, Republican and Conservative Party candidate for attorney general, touched down in Plattsburgh on Friday.

He isn’t concerned that all of the oxygen may be sucked out of the general election contest as four Democratic candidates head towards the conclusion of their hard-fought primary contest on Sept. 13.

“Voters and taxpayers and business people are focused on a real alternative,” Wofford told The Sun. “They want experience paired with independence.”

Wofford currently works as co-managing partner of Ropes & Gray, New York City law firm.

He touted his humble origins, born and raised in what he described as a “tough working class neighborhood” in Buffalo, where his father worked at a Chevy plant.

Wofford said decades of work in the private sector has prepared him for the state’s top law enforcement job because he’s used to working for tough clients who expect results.

The state, he said, is at a crossroads. Like the Democratic field, he assailed the state’s culture of corruption and promised to reign bad actors into control.

And while some national policies may be bad for New Yorkers, Wofford indicated he would ease up on using the office as a bulwark against the Trump administration, where Attorney General Barbara Underwood and her predecessor, Eric Schneiderman, have filed a flurry of legal challenges against the federal government on everything from rollbacks of car emissions to formal lawsuits against the administration’s family separation policy at the southern border.

The office’s main job is to “support and protect the taxpayers of this state,” Wofford said — not as cudgel to attack the federal government on areas of political disagreement.

“It’s a lawsuit a week or a lawsuit a day in an election year,” Wofford said. “I find it difficult to believe every case is a beneficial use of time and taxpayer resources.”


September 9, 2018

Watertown Daily Times

WATERTOWN — Keith H. Wofford, the Republican candidate for state attorney general, stopped in Watertown on Friday as he runs on a platform to make the state friendlier to business and less friendly to corruption.

“We have to have a change in the office,” Mr. Wofford said during an interview at the Times office.

Mr. Wofford is a co-managing partner of white-shoe law firm Ropes & Gray’s New York City office. But he was born in Buffalo, and his father worked at a Chevrolet plant outside the city.

“He was there for 32 years, got up at 4:30 every day,” Mr. Wofford said. “When my dad was there, there was a plant for him to go to.”

Mr. Wofford thinks that the attorney general’s office in New York has participated in driving business like the Chevy plant his father worked at out of the state.

“You have an environment of hostility to business,” he said. “The concrete example is settlement after settlement after settlement, fine after fine after fine.”

The attorney general has to prioritize what the office does, Mr. Wofford said, and has made prosecuting businesses for violations too high of a priority, in his view.

“In a state where elected officials are absconding with public money, that has to be priority one,” he said.
Second is the responsibility for defending the state in lawsuits — something Mr. Wofford said his extensive private sector experience in civil litigation has prepared him for.

“Third priority is deciding which violations of law are significant enough to merit the full power of the state,” he said. At the moment, “the power of the state is sort of a machine gun spraying everywhere.”

Mr. Wofford denies that this sort of selective prosecution of violations on the part of business is a way of circumventing the Legislature.

“You have to exercise this judgment,” he said. “It’s not overruling the Legislature, it’s responding to the Legislature.”
Mr. Wofford thinks his outsider status, 20 years of experience and his disinterest in further political office will set him apart from prior attorneys general. Asked about the high-profile cases the state attorney general has brought against the Trump administration and President Donald J. Trump’s charity, Mr. Wofford said he would only bring cases against the federal government if they were in the interests of the state, rather than for political gain.

“The last attorney general talked about resisting the federal government and it was clear … that was motivated to establish a partisan political position,” he said.

Mr. Wofford declined to speculate on which of the Democrats running for the nomination in next week’s primary he expects to face, but whomever it is, he thinks the contrast will be stark.

“Career politicians on the Democrat side, true outsider on the Republican side,” he said. “On the Democratic side, you have candidates who have not dealt with complicated contracts and sophisticated transactions … on the Republican side you have an experienced manager of a 700-employee law office who has practiced law at the highest level for two decades.”

The office itself, however, Mr. Wofford said, is not political — something that will help him do his job whether he is working with Republicans or Democrats.

“I think it’s actually indifferent whether it’s Republicans or Democrats in power at the state,” he said. “You do what’s in the best interests of the people of the state.”

It is these factors that Mr. Wofford thinks will help him get elected as a Republican when state offices are overwhelmingly held by Democrats.

“This race is not a normal down-ticket race, precisely because two of the three past attorney generals left office because of disqualifying issues,” he said. “We have a third of those three past attorney generals as governor where several, several people associated with the administration have not just been indicted but convicted of federal crimes.”

Because of this, Mr. Wofford thinks people will be looking for an alternative.

“The path to victory is very simple,” he said. “Once voters know there’s an alternative to career politicians … they’ll vote for me.”


August 22, 2018

The Buffalo News

New York’s next attorney general could determine whether six Catholic dioceses and one archdiocese in this state face a sweeping investigation into clergy sexual abuse similar to one that exposed a massive cover-up of abuses in Pennsylvania.

Five candidates are vying to be elected in November to the state’s highest-ranking law enforcement post.

The Buffalo News this week asked each of the candidates how they will proceed on the issue of clergy sexual abuse if elected to the state’s highest-ranking law enforcement post. Two of the candidates said they would investigate, while the other three said they would collaborate with local district attorneys on any investigation.

The News also asked if the candidates supported passage of the Child Victims Act – which would extend the time that civil lawsuits and criminal charges could be brought in cases of child sexual abuse – and all but one said yes. Democrat Leecia Eve of Buffalo said she had yet to take a position on the legislation.

The blistering grand jury report released last week revealed some 300 priests sexually abused more than 1,000 children in Pennsylvania and prompted victims to push harder for similar investigations of Catholic dioceses by attorneys general in other states, including New York.

Victims of abuse and their advocates want to see the New York attorney general use search warrants and subpoenas to ferret out secret church archives that they believe will show diocesan leaders committed crimes by hiding abuses and protecting predator priests.

A spokeswoman for current Attorney General Barbara Underwood has said that, in New York, the governor must first issue an executive order granting the attorney general prosecutorial authority to pursue a criminal investigation into sexual abuse like the one in Pennsylvania.

Four Democrats are squaring off in a primary for attorney general this September: Letitia James, the New York City public advocate, who was nominated at the state party convention; Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney of the Hudson Valley; Zephyr Teachout, a law professor and former candidate for governor; and Eve, a former adviser to Hillary Clinton and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.

And Republican Keith H. Wofford, a Buffalo native, City Honors School graduate and a partner at the law firm Ropes & Gray, is running in November with the backing of the party. Wofford lives in New York City.

The News asked the five candidates the following question: In light of the Pennsylvania grand jury report on clergy abuse, issued last week, would you – if elected – conduct a similar statewide investigation in New York?

Here is how they responded:

Eve: Eve said she would give serious consideration to conducting an investigation into Catholic clergy abuse similar to the investigation conducted in Pennsylvania. “I can’t speak to the breadth of the problem in New York State, but I believe the extraordinary and horrific findings of the Pennsylvania attorney general and the unequivocal findings of abuse of thousands of children in other states suggests that a comprehensive look may be warranted in our state. As attorney general, close to the beginning of my term, I would sit down with district attorneys from all over the state to get a better understanding of what they are dealing with, and get their input before making a decision on what our role should be on a statewide level. I want to add that I believe the vast majority of Catholic priests and Catholic church leaders do extraordinary work, not only for their parishioners, but for refugees and for the poor all over this state. But the Pennsylvania case shows us that there have been systemic problems that have caused harm to children, the most vulnerable people in this state.”

James: “The Pennsylvania grand jury report is horrific and a damning statement on the church’s failure to protect children. No child should ever be harmed like this, and as attorney general, I will use the powers of my office to investigate any similar systemic abuse and any institutional cover-up.”

Maloney: “Yes. Last week, Cardinal O’Malley, one of the Pope’s top advisers on sexual abuse in the church stated that ‘the clock is ticking for all of us in church leadership. Catholics have lost patience with us and civil society has lost confidence in us.’ Cardinal O’Malley is right. But I don’t think the clock is still ticking, time is up. As AG, I will initiate a statewide investigation into allegations of clergy sexual abuse and misconduct, and I will pursue civil and criminal action for any wrongdoing.

“Listen, my mom and dad went to Mass every single day. Not just Sundays – every day. I think the best thing I ever did in my folk’s eyes was going to Catholic college and then doing a year of service with the Jesuits in Peru. Like millions of New Yorkers, faith was central to my upbringing and continues to be to this day. People like my parents, my family, must be protected from predatory or complicit clergy who would take advantage of their faith. These crimes are the ultimate betrayal – we need to know how pervasive the problem is, then we need to hold the individuals and those in power accountable.”

Teachout: “The combination of the Pennsylvania AG’s report and the disturbing allegations about New York abuses demand an investigation here in New York. Unlike the Pennsylvania AG, the New York AG doesn’t have jurisdiction to convene a grand jury, that’s why it’s so key to partner with local district attorneys who do have that power and that’s exactly what I’d do.”

Wofford: “Yes, I would support conducting an investigation and work as appropriate with local district attorneys. The allegations being brought to light are despicable, and I feel terrible for the victims of this abuse. No child should be made to feel uncomfortable or threatened by their religious leaders. This issue needs to be addressed, and if conducting an investigation will help solve the problem and protect our children, then yes I would consider it.”

The Buffalo Diocese since late February has been reeling from a continuing scandal over cover-up of clergy sex abuse dating back decades. A retired priest’s admission that he had molested boys in the 1970s and 1980s led to revelations of dozens of other sex abuse cases.

Underwood, who was appointed attorney general and is not running for election, on Thursday directed her criminal division leadership to reach out to local district attorneys who have the power the convene investigative grand juries for sex abuse cases “to establish a potential partnership on this issue,” said the spokeswoman, Amy Spitalnick.

Erie County District Attorney John J. Flynn said Wednesday his office is talking with Underwood’s office about a possible joint investigation into clergy sexual abuse probe.

Underwood replaced Eric Schneiderman in May after Schneiderman resigned abruptly amid accusations he physically abused multiple women.

The News also asked the candidates if they were in favor of the Child Victims Act, legislation that would expand the state’s restrictive statute of limitations around sexual abuse cases.

Current law gives victims until their 23rd birthday the opportunity to bring civil and criminal cases. The Child Victims Act would expand it to age 50 for civil cases and age 28 for felony criminal cases. The bill advocated by abuse victims also includes a controversial look-back provision that would open a one-year window during which victims could file lawsuits for cases potentially dating back decades.

The Catholic Church, some yeshivas, the Boy Scouts and the insurance industry have lobbied heavily against the look-back provision.

Here’s how the candidates responded:

Eve: “I have not taken a position yet, because I see the concerns on both sides. I do feel that the Child Victims Act, or some version of it, must be given serious consideration to help victims get justice. We need to be mindful of the concerns voiced about (statute of limitations issues) but the goal of the attorney general has to be that justice is served.” She said she would reach out to “thoughtful leaders of the Catholic Church” and try to find some compromise solution that would provide “justice or financial compensation for the victims.”

James: “I will also use my bully pulpit to call for the Child Victims Act to immediately be enacted. While there is no expiration date on a victim’s pain and suffering, this law will help ensure justice is served. We must do all we can to protect victims, support survivors, and bring abusers to justice.”

Maloney: “I am strongly in support of the passing of the Child Victims Act. We must hold predators accountable – no matter who they are and no matter how much time has passed since their crime. If we continue to let repeat offenders get away with their predatory behavior, we will never be able to provide survivors with the peace-of-mind that they deserve.”

Teachout: “I emphatically support the Child Victims Act. It’s outrageous that survivors of childhood sexual abuse have to beg and plead for a simple extension of the statute of limitations so they can bring their abusers to court. Currently the clock runs out at age 23, which is simply unreasonable given everything we know about trauma. There’s no legal or administrative reason not to pass the Child Victims Act, only a lack of political will.”

Wofford: “New York State laws regarding the statute of limitations for child sexual abuse crimes are too restrictive and thus unfair to victims. I would favor legislation designed to protect people from predators, and help all victims seek justice under due process of the law.”