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Maria Vullo, former head of NY's Dept. of Financial Services, launches AG bid

A photo of Maria Vullo, candidate for New York Attorney General
Facebook: @MariaVulloforAG
Maria Vullo

Former New York State Department of Financial Services Superintendent Maria Vullo is entering the race for state attorney general. Current Democratic Attorney General Tish James is running for governor. Vullo was the state’s top financial regulator from 2016 to 2019 and is currently an adjunct professor at Fordham University.

Fellow Fordham law professor Zephyr Teachout is also running for attorney general following unsuccessful bids for governor in 2014, Congress in 2016 and AG in 2018. Others running in the Democratic field include former federal prosecutor Dan Goldman, state Senator Shelley Mayer, and Assemblyman Clyde Vanel. Republicans Michael Henry, Joseph Holland, and John Sarcone are also running. WAMC's Jim Levulis spoke with Vullo following her campaign kickoff Thursday morning.

Vullo: I want to be the Attorney General of New York because I want to continue to use my experience my determination and my love of this great state to serve the people of the state of New York. And I think, you know, at a time when reproductive rights or being attacked. I was in Washington, DC yesterday [December 1, 2021] at the rally before the Supreme Court and the argument and when public integrity needs, you know, strong leadership to bring back New York after the pandemic, and when consumer protection needs to have a strong leader that has demonstrated leadership in that area. For all those reasons, New York needs an Attorney General with my background, my experience, my capabilities, my determination, and my track record of actually doing things in the face of adversity, and getting things done for the people of the state of New York.

Levulis: I want to touch on a topic that you mentioned there. The issue of abortion is back before the US Supreme Court. You were the chair of NARAL Pro-Choice America and also chair of the National Institute of Reproductive Health Action Fund. If the precedent set by Roe v. Wade is altered or overruled, what action would you take if you were New York's Attorney General?

Vullo: So yes, I have led the fight of reproductive freedom for decades. I also represented Planned Parenthood for many years, including in a major lawsuit against anti-abortion extremists. As Attorney General of the State of New York, I will lead the country in the fight for reproductive freedom as I have in my entire career. And when the Supreme Court unfortunately further erodes or overrules Roe v. Wade, our country, the women of our country, the men of our country, everyone who stands for freedom needs a leader like me in New York, to ensure that access to abortion will continue for all those women who need to have this service, because there will be many states that if the Supreme Court further erodes or overrules it, that will continue with these abortion bans or restrictions. And so New York will need to be a safe haven for those women to be able to come and you need an attorney general who's going to protect that right of abortion in the state of New York.

Levulis: Now, previous attorney generals have positioned themselves as opponents to Wall Street excess, to put it sort of simply. With your experience in financial services, you were the superintendent of the New York State Department of Financial Services, as well as your experience in economic justice. Do you see yourself in that mold?

Vullo: So I certainly, you know, I have a record as the Superintendent of Financial Services of serving the people of the state of New York. I have a record, as you said, as Executive Deputy Attorney General for Economic Justice serving the people of the state of New York and going after Wall Street con artists and in levying fines $3 billion of fines as superintendent against money launderers and cyber criminals and sanctions violators, payday lenders, and corporations that you know, preyed on consumers and actually receiving $400 million in restitution for the consumers of the state of New York that went back to consumers, by corporations that did not play fairly. So yes, I think my record demonstrates very clearly that when there is that when then corporations on Wall Street or elsewhere, are not playing by the rules, that I will be tough, and I will go after fraud and improper practices.

Levulis: As mentioned, you were superintendent of the State Department of Financial Services, that was until 2019, all under the administration of former Governor Andrew Cuomo who resigned in August amid sexual harassment and other scandals. Many other top Cuomo officials have been removed from their posts or left state government. What would you say to voters who might be hesitant to support a former Cuomo administration leader?

Vullo: I left on February 1st of 2019. I am appalled by his misconduct, his personal misconduct. I was actually one of the first former administration officials to speak out about his personal misconduct and I’m obviously not responsible for his personal misconduct of which I was completely unaware, and had nothing to do with as the Attorney General's report did not mention me in any way because I had nothing to do with it.

Levulis: There's already a crowded field on both sides to replace Attorney General Tish James, some of the other candidates are well funded and they've already run statewide. What distinguishes you from the field?

Vullo: I don't believe that there is any candidate in the race that has already run statewide. I believe that I'm the only person at least that has announced or that I'm aware of who has actually served the people of the state of New York as a statewide public official, as Superintendent of Financial Services to the state of New York. I served the people as a statewide public official. I know New York State better than any of the other candidates. I've crossed this state. I've served the state. I've served in the Attorney General's office at a high level and I've served alongside the Attorney General's office. When I was superintendent. I ran a 1,400-person agency. I had a budget. I testified before the legislature. I've worked with the legislature. I have experienced that none of the other candidates have. I'm a trial lawyer. I'm an appellate lawyer. I've argued all the way up to the Supreme Court of the United States. And I have done all of the work that the Attorney General's Office does. I know all the subject matters, the broad scope of what the attorney general's office does. So I think that there is, that I am the best qualified person to hold this office from day one. I am not a politician. I want to be the Attorney General of the State of New York. And that's all I want to be. And I will serve the people of this state. I was born and raised in this state. Every one of my degrees is from New York State. I love the state and I want to serve the people of the state and be their lawyer.

Jim is WAMC’s Associate News Director and hosts WAMC's flagship news programs: Midday Magazine, Northeast Report and Northeast Report Late Edition. Email: jlevulis@wamc.org