News

CANDIDATES FOR AG SUPPORT CHANGES TO PROSECUTORIAL MISCONDUCT COMMISSION BILL

August 17, 2018

New York Law Journal

At least three candidates for state attorney general said Friday they support the goal of a commission to investigate prosecutorial misconduct, but acknowledge a bill creating one may need changes to meet the approval of Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

The bill has faced increased scrutiny in recent days from prosecutors who are mounting a legal challenge, which has been fueled by a memo from Attorney General Barbara Underwood’s counsel warning the legislation may not survive judicial review.

Leecia Eve’s position mirrors what general counsel Leslie Dubeck said in that memo, a spokesman said.
Eve, a Democrat, previously served in the Cuomo administration as an economic development official, and was also counsel to Hillary Clinton and Joseph Biden when they were in the U.S. Senate. She’s currently the vice president of state government affairs for Verizon in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.

“Leecia fully supports the goal of the legislation but shares Attorney General Underwood’s [counsel’s] concerns about the constitutionality of some of the provisions in this bill,” said Peter Kauffmann, Eve’s spokesman.

Underwood’s office also supports the goal of the legislation, which is to provide more oversight of misconduct by the state’s district attorneys and their assistants. The bill would create an 11-member commission of judges, prosecutors and defense attorneys to receive and investigate complaints of misconduct by prosecutors.

The bill may need significant changes to survive judicial review, according to Dubeck’s memo this week. She wrote to Cuomo’s counsel, Alphonso David, about possible challenges, including separation of powers issues, the judiciary’s role in the commission, and the function of the state’s prosecutors.

Marvin Schechter, a defense attorney and past president of the New York State Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, disagreed with Dubeck’s memo. The group is a main proponent of the legislation.

“It’s almost like someone said to Ms. Underwood and Ms. Dubeck to go through the New York state Constitution and wherever you can find a provision that is seemingly inconsistent with this commission, cite it and call it separation of powers,” Schecter said.

Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, another Democrat running in the primary, said on Friday that Dubeck’s concerns should be acknowledged, but that Cuomo and the Legislature should come to an agreement on changes to the bill before Monday’s deadline. He supports the commission.

“This reform is a critical move toward improving our justice system, preventing wrongful convictions, and making sure that our prosecutors are following the law,” Maloney said. “That said, Attorney General Underwood’s office has examined the bill and raised real concerns. Ultimately the law must survive to be successful and not just symbolic, so the governor and the Legislature need to get back to work, fix this immediately, and get this bill passed.”

New York City Public Advocate Letitia James said much of the same. She wants Cuomo to sign the bill, and pushed for a three-way agreement on a chapter amendment. That’s when the governor signs the bill with a promise from the Legislature to amend it at the next earliest opportunity.

“I strongly support a prosecutorial misconduct commission,” James said. “This is a real opportunity to provide needed accountability in our criminal justice system—and I urge the governor, the Senate, and the Assembly to come to an agreement on changes in the coming days and enact this bill. We cannot move backwards, and we cannot accept the status quo any longer.”

James endorsed the commission earlier this month as part of her criminal justice platform. She said she would defend the constitutionality of the legislation as attorney general.

Albany County District Attorney David Soares, who is president of the District Attorneys Association of the State of New York, told the group’s members in a letter this week that they are preparing litigation against the commission. They have already begun drafting a complaint in anticipation of Cuomo’s approval.

Soares also suggested in the letter that prosecutors should decline to serve on the commission until litigation surrounding its constitutionality is resolved. He said serving on a commission that may be considered unlawful could breach their duties as law enforcement officers.

That would leave the commission essentially inoperable since four of its 11 members are required by statute to be prosecutors. It’s scheduled to become operational in January, with a price tag of $5.5 million.

DAASNY has opposed the bill since it was introduced in 2015. It had its own concerns about the constitutionality of the legislation long before Dubeck’s memo. It has suggested strengthening the state’s grievance committees instead of creating a new commission.

Each Appellate Division has a grievance committee that reviews complaints against attorneys in New York, and has the power to censure, suspend or disbar them. Those committees are composed of attorneys and nonattorneys, and appointed by the court.

Keith Wofford, the Republican candidate for attorney general, sides with DAASNY. He said Dubeck’s concerns have legs, and that the state already has a process for disciplining prosecutors.

“I agree with [the counsel to] Acting Attorney General Underwood that the proposed commission is legally suspect on separation of powers grounds,” Wofford said. “Procedures already exist to discipline district attorneys who abuse their office. Currently, the governor can remove the district attorneys after an investigation, and if their conduct is found to be egregious they can be subject to discipline by the Grievance Review Committee, or even disbarment.”

Supporters of the bill have argued that those grievance committees are not effective or transparent enough to address prosecutorial misconduct. The committees handle complaints against all attorneys in the state and their decisions are not easily available to the public.

The commission would bring those decisions to light and help deter future misconduct by prosecutors, supporters argue. They predict that will reduce the number of wrongful convictions and exonerations in New York.

A spokeswoman for Zephyr Teachout did not respond to a request for the candidate’s position on the commission following Dubeck’s memo.

GOP ATTORNEY GENERAL CANDIDATE STUMPS IN ORANGE COUNTY

August 11, 2018

MidHudsonNews.com

NEW WINDSOR – Republican state attorney general candidate Keith Wofford, a Manhattan attorney, made his first campaign stop outside New York City on Friday with a visit to the New Windsor Town Hall complex.

The political newcomer, originally from Buffalo, in a predominantly Democratic state and heavily Democratic Big Apple, views his status as a plus.

“The office of attorney general is one where voters historically have, whether they have one party background or the other, voters have wanted someone who is independent and who had the expertise and experience with the law and who would have proper judgment and balance and call balls and strikes. So partisanship is far, far down the list of things that voters want and expect from their attorney general.”

Wofford will run against whoever wins the Democratic primary next month, a race that includes Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney.

As attorney general, Wofford said he would fight to get corruption under control.

REPUBLICAN AG HOPEFUL TOURS NEW WINDSOR

August 10, 2018

Times Herald-Record

NEW WINDSOR — Keith Wofford, the Republican and Conservative candidate to be New York’s next attorney general, stopped in New Windsor on Friday to tour the town’s police, ambulance and other government facilities.

Wofford said he wanted to hear firsthand about the challenges faced by first responders on the local level dealing with things like the opioid crisis.

As for his campaign priorities, Wofford said, “We’ve got to deal with the corruption in state government.”

As a lawyer and an outsider with no previous political experience, Wofford said he is the ideal candidate to take on that challenge.

He will face one of several Democrats vying to run for the job, including Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney.

But, Wofford said, “All the (Democratic) candidates are too far to the left for mainstream voters in New York state.”

And, he added, they will not deal with the state’s corruption because they are part of the political machine.

As an example of state corruption, Wofford pointed to several recent convictions for bid-rigging in the Buffalo Billion economic development project in western New York.

Wofford, who’s originally from Buffalo, said ending corruption will ensure state funding is spent to benefit ordinary citizens.

“I come from a working-class family,” he said. “When I was a kid, government was better at spending its money.”

AG CANDIDATE THREATENS LAWSUIT OVER “RACIST” BILL TO LIMIT RIDE-SHARING LICENSES

August 6, 2018

New York Post

The City Council’s push to suspend licensing of new for-hire vehicles to rein in “e-hail” services like Uber and Lyft is now an issue in the race for state attorney general.

Republican AG candidate Keith Wofford, a black man who’s said he’s been refused street hails by yellow taxi drivers, said he would file a discrimination suit against the council and Mayor Bill de Blasio if they approve a law to cap licenses for app-based car services.

“I have personally endured decades of race-based refusal from yellow cab drivers in New York City and I will not stand by and watch politicians take us back to the blatantly racist status quo that African-Americans were subjected to, prior to the arrival of rideshare services,” Wofford said.

“If elected as attorney general of the state of New York, I would immediately file a civil rights lawsuit to stop any attempt by the City Council to cap or restrain licenses for ride-sharing services,” Wofford said.

Wofford also said a cap on for-hire vehicle licenses doesn’t make sense at a time of deteriorating transit service with commuters of all stripes looking for alternatives.

“With a crumbling subway system and expensive yellow taxis, working people, minorities, and individuals who reside in upper Manhattan and the outer boroughs have come to rely on ride-sharing services to provide quick and dependable transportation,” he told The Post.

“This measure would remove options for everyday New Yorkers, particularly African-Americans, to travel freely and effectively throughout the city of New York.”

Wofford is the first candidate for attorney general to speak out on the issue. There are also four Democratic candidates vying for their party’s nomination for AG: Public Advocate Letitia James, Zephyr Teachout, Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney and Leecia Eve.

Council members argue that a cap on for-hire vehicles is justified because an influx of e-hail cabs is clogging traffic and lowering living standards for drivers. Five cab drivers have committed suicide this year.

One measure sponsored by Councilman Steve Levin (D-Brooklyn) proposes a moratorium on most new for-hire vehicles while the city studies congestion and driver pay. Another bill drafted by Councilman Brad Lander (D-Brooklyn) would give the Taxi and Limousine Commission the authority to set minimum pay standards for drivers.

Uber has unleashed an ad blitz in a bid to block the council from acting. In 2015, Uber was successful in thwarting a similar effort by de Blasio to cap for-hire vehicle licenses.

But critics claim the street traffic and driver woes are worse now, while Uber and Lyft argue a moratorium favors taxi medallion owners and stiffs New Yorkers by stifling competition.

State Republicans Nominate Buffalo Native as Party’s Candidate for State Attorney General

June 9, 2018

The Challenger News

New York’s Republican Party nominated New York City attorney Keith Wofford as their preferred candidate for attorney general May 24 at the Republican state convention in Manhattan. Wofford, 49, grew up on Winslow Avenue in Buffalo, attended Martin Luther School until fourth grade and transferred to and later graduated from City Honors School. He has an undergraduate and law school degree from Harvard University.

He is the co-managing partner of the New York City office of Ropes & Gray, an international law firm. Wofford said that if elected his priority will be combating New York’s chronic problem with political corruption. “I will put an end to it by going after public corruption wherever it leads and bring charges against those who violate the public trust, regardless of their title,” he said. Mr. Wofford is the party’s first-ever African- American nominee for attorney general.

Republican Keith Wofford launches outsider campaign for New York AG in native Buffalo

June 4, 2018

The Buffalo News

By Stephen T. Watson

Republican Keith Wofford launched his campaign for New York attorney general on Monday in his native Buffalo with a blistering attack on the office’s recent occupants and a vow to clean up Albany.

Wofford, an attorney in private practice in Manhattan, touted his political inexperience as an asset.

“Corruption is wrong, and it must be stopped. But it cannot stop unless we stop electing insiders, political climbers and hacks as attorney general of this state,” he said at a campaign event outside the Buffalo & Erie County Central Library.

Wofford, who grew up on the East Side and graduated from City Honors School, said the values he learned from his parents would serve him well as the state’s top lawyer.

Wofford is the GOP nominee in the race to replace Eric T. Schneiderman, who resigned in early May after a sexual abuse scandal. He won the Republican nod at the party’s statewide convention last month. He is the first African-American nominated by the Republicans to run for attorney general.

The last Republican to hold the job, Dennis Vacco, also was from Western New York. His term ended in 1998.

Vacco was succeeded by three Democrats: Eliot Spitzer, who later served as governor before resigning in disgrace; Andrew Cuomo, now the governor; and Schneiderman.

Wofford did not actively seek the nomination until after Schneiderman’s resignation. Republicans now see an opportunity with the incumbent’s departure.

Democrats have not settled on their nominee for attorney general, but one candidate is Leecia Eve, another attorney who is from Buffalo.

Wofford, who has not previously held elected office, works as a managing partner of the New York City office of a global law firm.

He said the state’s “pay-to-play system” hurts taxpayers by sending the cost of government soaring and by driving business away from New York.

Wofford said he wanted to launch his campaign at the Central Library because he visited so often with his mother when he was a child.

“For me, this is where it all started,” he said.

Wofford was joined at the campaign event by his wife, his two young children, two of his cousins from Buffalo, Erie County Republican Chairman Nick Langworthy and Erie County Conservative Chairman Ralph Lorigo.

“Keith Wofford is a great Buffalo success story,” Langworthy said in introducing the candidate.

Buffalo native Wofford launches GOP campaign for AG with salvo at Albany corruption

June 4, 2018

The Buffalo News

By Stephen T. Watson and Tom Precious

Keith Wofford lives on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, has a top post with a global law firm, two kids in private schools, a vacation place and a Harvard University law degree.

But Wofford, the Republican Party’s new candidate for state attorney general, is a Buffalo guy.

In fact, he can’t stop talking about Buffalo, whether in his acceptance speech to GOP convention delegates gathered last month in Manhattan, in two subsequent interviews or at Monday’s formal launch of his campaign in his hometown.

“I wanted to make my first campaign stop where it all started, here in Buffalo,” Wofford said Monday outside downtown’s Central Library.

The East Side native and City Honors School graduate kicked off his run for the state’s top legal job with a blistering attack on the office’s recent occupants and a vow to clean up Albany.

Only weeks earlier, Republicans from across New York had backed Wofford to become state government’s top lawyer in one of the nation’s most active attorney general’s offices.

Wofford is not only new to the statewide political scene, but also had never met most of the GOP delegates gathered to select an attorney general candidate until several hours before he was tapped. That followed a harried, behind-the-scenes battle with three other Republicans to get a job that has served as a stepping stone into the governor’s office in Albany.

“My name is Keith Wofford. … For many of you, it’s the first time you’re hearing from me,” Wofford told the delegates just after they made him the party’s first African-American candidate for attorney general. In the end, the closest challenger to him was Joseph Holland, another African-American lawyer.

Wofford said he had no specific plans to run for the office until Eric Schneiderman, a Democrat, resigned amid a sexual abuse scandal just two weeks prior to the start of the GOP convention.

Senior GOP officials started talking to Wofford, who has been quietly active in some Republican circles and has donated to the party in the past. He was also tapped in 2006 by then-Gov. George Pataki to lead a state panel involved in development efforts in Harlem. Friends, too, who had been casually chatting him up about a run someday for the office got more serious in their advice.

“I had not planned on getting involved in this race,” he said, but added, “When it became clear that there was a real opportunity to get someone into that seat who was actually independent, I was worried that we would squander the opportunity.”

Pushed late in the game by Ed Cox, the state GOP chairman, and Marc Molinaro, the Dutchess County executive who GOP delegates selected as their candidate to run for governor this year, Wofford’s sudden rise surprised even party veterans. On the Thursday morning of the convention, he was spotted for the first time publicly at the convention hall. Before delegates voted, he was seen on an upper level of the ballroom complex working on his acceptance speech.

Shaped by Buffalo

Wofford grew up in a modest, two-story house with his father, mother and brother on Buffalo’s East Side on Winslow Avenue, a block or so from what were the then-Conrail train tracks. Born in 1969, he played street football and basketball in friends’ backyards.

But he credited the world beyond his neighborhood – his parents, teachers, librarians and mentors in the legal field – for shaping the path he took.

“The elements of Buffalo that I really treasure the most was that it was a place where people really wanted to help the individual without having a real reason to do so other than to do the right thing,” he said in an interview.

His father’s family came to Buffalo from Georgia in the 1920s. Wofford’s father, John, worked at the Chevrolet engine plant for 32 years. His mother, Ruby, graduated high in her class from Hutchinson Central Technical High School and, when not raising her two sons, worked as a sales clerk in several different local department stores. Her ancestors had moved to Canada from upstate following the 1850 Fugitive Slave Act and then into New York several decades later.

Wofford said he was taught that there was a world beyond his neighborhood when, at a young age, his mother would take him on the bus to the central branch of the Buffalo & Erie County Public Library on Saturday mornings. His fond feelings for the Central Library are why Wofford held Monday’s campaign event in front of the building.

“I just began to love books,” Wofford said. “I still think it’s one of the best libraries in the country. It’s an underappreciated resource.”

It opened his eyes. “Buffalo was a great place to grow up and learn. We grew up in a working-class environment, but I got to take school trips to Kleinhans Music Hall, and I spent a lot of time at the Museum of Science, which was only a few blocks from my house,” he said.

Until fifth grade, he attended a small Lutheran school, transferring to City Honors School in the fifth grade. Wofford said he was a regular on the science fair circuit, played trumpet – not very well, he believes – in the school band, and helped the debate team to what he recalls was a string of undefeated matches. His jobs to make extra money as a teenager include working at a small publishing company as a proofreader, working the phones at a local call center and a chemistry internship at the University at Buffalo.

Wofford didn’t make it into the 12th grade, he said, because he was accepted in his junior year to Harvard, where he majored in government. (City Honors later gave him a diploma.) At a local dinner for Harvard students and incoming freshman in 1986, he met the first in a steady line of local lawyers who mentored him on the ways of the legal profession.

“I was not coming from a prep school with a lot of those sorts of connections. … They were extraordinary,” he said of the lawyers who gave him time and summer jobs. Richard “Rit” Moot, who died last year, was a key early influence, Wofford said.

The next summer, he worked for William I. Schapiro at Jaeckle Fleischmann & Mugel. He was introduced to Matthew Jasen, who had just retired as a judge on the state’s highest court. And he was helped along by the partners at the storied Buffalo law firm of Magavern & Magavern.

Wofford is co-managing partner of Manhattan office of the international law firm Ropes & Gray, where he has concentrated on bankruptcy and creditors’ rights matters, but is on a leave of absence from the firm.

He lives in an apartment on the west side of Manhattan with his wife, Marla; 13-year-old daughter, Alexandra; and 11-year-old son, Isaac.

As he mounts his campaign, he said he has Buffalo on the mind. “People in Buffalo and upstate New York are very free-thinking. They are very hardworking and they are really genuine people who take people on their merits. That fairmindedness and that openness and hard work are all things that I benefited from,” he said.

Long road to the AG’s office

The 49-year-old Republican, who said briefly registered as Democrat in the 1990s, today faces tough odds, as does any statewide GOP candidate in a state where Democrats outnumber Republicans by more than two to one.

Democrats have not settled on their nominee for attorney general, but one candidate is Leecia Eve, another attorney from Buffalo.

The last Republican to hold the job, Dennis Vacco, also was from Western New York. His term ended in 1998. Vacco was succeeded by three Democrats: Eliot Spitzer, who later served as governor before resigning in disgrace; Andrew Cuomo, now the governor; and Schneiderman.

Wofford on Monday was sharply critical of that trio and touted his political inexperience as an asset. Wofford said the state’s “pay-to-play system” hurts taxpayers by sending the cost of government soaring and by driving business away from New York.

“Corruption is wrong, and it must be stopped. But it cannot stop unless we stop electing insiders, political climbers and hacks as attorney general of this state,” he said outside the Central Library.

As Wofford spoke Monday, two of his cousins stood behind him. Constance Wofford Robinson and the Rev. Clyde Wofford said in an interview that they’re confident their cousin would restore the office’s integrity.

“This will be the first time I’ll actually vote for a candidate and I’ll know their heart, I know their mind, I know their passion, I know their seriousness,” said Clyde Wofford. He remembered his cousin, who is 14 years his junior, as the only family member who could beat him at chess.

Wofford Robinson said her cousin, as a child and teenager, always had his nose in a book.

“When my cousin announced that he wanted to do this, knowing the stock that he came from, there’s going to be a change in this office,” she said. “Because I know he’s from right. He was born, and he was raised, right. And I know he’ll do the right thing toward the consumers, toward the constituents and toward the people of New York State.”

WNY native Keith Wofford wants to be state Attorney General

June 4, 2018

WGRZ

BUFFALO, N.Y. – Keith Wofford grew up on Winslow Avenue in the city. He’s come a long way from his humble beginnings on the east side. He’s a corporate attorney and co-managing partner at Ropes & Gray in New York City – and now he wants to be the next New York State Attorney General and combat political corruption.

“It’s 20 years of working hard, being a business owner, being a taxpayer, seeing what the potential is that has been wasted and squandered by the conduct of public officials…it is long term fatigue,” said the endorsed republican nominee about why he decided to run for office.

He is not shy about political corruption that has unfolded in state government.

“We need to have a real investigation into the pay-to-play system and we need to stop it,” he said during an interview before kicking off his campaign outside the Central Library in Buffalo. “We need to tell those in the system and put them on notice, that there is going to be real scrutiny in stopping the public corruption. We need to look at the contracts that are being signed before they are signed. We need to look at the contracts that have been signed that are really not fair to the people of New York,” he said.

The Buffalo Billion which led to indictments has not gone unnoticed by Wofford.

“Common sense tells us the notion that there is a billion dollars that is actually coming to buffalo and been put on the ground to improve the livelihood of the people here is just not credible.”

You can watch our Claudine Ewing’s entire interview with Wofford as he discusses why he’s in the race, donations he’s made to political candidates and why he believes he’s the best candidate, below:

The race for NYS Attorney General also includes Western New York native Leecia Eve. The endorsed democrat is New York City Public Advocate Letitia James.

Wofford is a graduate of City Honors School and Harvard.

With bow to Buffalo roots, political novice aims for state attorney general

May 26, 2018

The Buffalo News

By Tom Precious

ALBANY – Keith Wofford lives on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, has a top post with a global law firm, two kids in private schools, a vacation place and a Harvard Law degree.

But Wofford, the Republican Party’s new candidate for state Attorney General, is a Buffalo guy.

In fact, he can’t stop talking about Buffalo, whether in his Thursday acceptance speech to GOP convention delegates gathered in Manhattan, or in two subsequent interviews.

“While I live in New York City today, it was my time in Buffalo that taught me everything I need to know and, frankly, it’s an important part about why I’m running for attorney general,” Wofford said early on in his Thursday speech.

Only two days earlier, the political newcomer launched his campaign to become state government’s top lawyer in one of the nation’s most active attorney general’s offices.

Wofford is not only new to the statewide political scene, but he had never met most of the GOP delegates gathered to select an attorney general candidate until several hours before he was tapped following a harried, behind-the-scenes battle with three other Republicans to get a job that has become a stepping stone for the two recent office-holders into the governor’s job in Albany.

“My name is Keith Wofford … For many of you, it’s the first time you’re hearing from me,” Wofford told the delegates just after they made him the party’s first-ever African American candidate for attorney general. In the end, the closest challenger to him was Joseph Holland, another African American lawyer.

Wofford said he had no specific plans to run for the office until Eric Schneiderman, a Democrat,resigned amid a sexual abuse scandal just two weeks prior to the start of the GOP convention.

Senior GOP officials started talking to Wofford, who has been quietly active in some Republican circles and has donated to the party in the past. He was also tapped in 2006 by then Gov. George Pataki to chair a state panel involved in development efforts in Harlem. Friends, too, who had been casually chatting him up about a run someday for the office got more serious in their advice.

“I had not planned on getting involved in this race,” he said. But, he added, “When it became clear that there was a real opportunity to get someone into that seat who was actually independent, I was worried that we would squander the opportunity.”

Pushed late in the game by Ed Cox, the state GOP chairman, and Marc Molinaro, the Dutchess County Executive who on Wednesday was selected by GOP delegates as their candidate to run for governor this year, Wofford’s sudden rise surprised even party veterans. On Thursday morning, he was spotted for the first time publicly at the convention hall. Before delegates voted, he was seen on an upper level of the ballroom complex working on his acceptance speech.

Shaped by Buffalo

Wofford grew up in a modest, two-story house with his father, mother and brother on Buffalo’s East Side on Winslow Avenue, a block or so from what were the then-Conrail train tracks. Born in 1969, he played street football and basketball in friends’ backyards.

But he credited the world beyond his neighborhood – his parents, teachers, librarians and mentors in the legal field – for shaping the path he took.

“The elements of Buffalo that I really treasure the most was that it was a place where people really wanted to help the individual without having a real reason to do so other than to do the right thing. And that happened to me over and over again, and Buffalo had the resources available to the public to help someone from a regular family to experience great things,” he said in an interview Friday.

His father’s family came to Buffalo from Georgia in the 1920s. Wofford’s father, John, worked at the Chevrolet engine plant for 24 years. His mother, Ruby, graduated high in her class from Hutchinson Central Technical High School and, when not raising her two sons, worked as a sales clerks in several different local department stores; her ancestors had moved to Canada from upstate following the 1850 Fugitive Slave Act and then into New York several decades later.

Wofford said he was taught that there was a world beyond his neighborhood when at a young age his mother would take him on the bus to the Central Branch of the Buffalo and Erie County Public Library on Saturday mornings.

“I just began to love books,” Wofford said. “I still think it’s one of the best libraries in the country. It’s an under-appreciated resource.”

It opened his eyes. “Buffalo was a great place to grow up and learn. We grew up in a working-class environment but I got to take school trips to Kleinhans Music Hall and I spent a lot of time at the Museum of Science, which was only a few blocks from my house,” he said.

Until fifth grade, he attended a small Lutheran school, transferring to City Honors School in the fifth grade. Wofford said he was a regular on the science fair circuit, played trumpet – not very well, he believes – in the school band and helped the debate team to what he recalls was a string of undefeated matches. His jobs to make extra money as a teenager include working at a small publishing company as a proofreader, working the phones at a local call center and a chemistry internship at the University of Buffalo.

Wofford didn’t make it into the 12th grade, he said, because he was accepted in his junior year to Harvard, where he majored in government. (City Honors later gave him a diploma.) At a local dinner for Harvard students and incoming freshman in 1986, he met the first in a steady line of local lawyers who would mentor him on the ways of the legal profession.

“I was not coming from a prep school with a lot of those sorts of connections … They were extraordinary,” he said of the lawyers who gave him time and summer jobs. Richard “Rit” Moot, who died last year, was a key early influence, Wofford said. The next summer, he worked for Robert Shapiro at Jaeckle Fleischmann & Mugel. He was introduced to Matthew Jasen, who had just retired as a judge on the state’s highest court. And he was helped along by the partners at the storied Buffalo law firm of Magavern & Magavern.

“They all gave me good advice and started teaching me what practicing law was all about,” said Wofford, who today is co-managing partner of the international law firm Ropes & Gray, where he has concentrated on bankruptcy and creditors’ rights matters.

The 49-year-old Republican, who said he was briefly a registered Democrat in the 1990s, today faces tough odds, as does any statewide GOP candidate in a state where Democrats outnumber Republicans by more than two to one. Publicly, he appears undaunted, at least in the first 24 hours since he became a statewide candidate.

Wofford lives in an apartment on the west side of Manhattan with his wife, Marla, a 13-year-old daughter and 11-year-old son.

As he mounts his campaign, he said he has Buffalo on the mind. “People in Buffalo and upstate New York are very free-thinking. They are very hardworking and they are really genuine people who take people on their merits. That fairmindedness and that openness and hard work are all things that I benefited from,” he said.