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February 1, 2010

A crowded field waits for Cuomo's move on AG race

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — The most active campaign for statewide office this year doesn't have any candidates yet and may not even have an incumbent.



This is the odd world of the race for New York attorney general, in which at least a half-dozen lawyers and prosecutors are considering a run — but only if popular Attorney General Andrew Cuomo runs for governor. The once almost-anonymous job has transformed over the past 15 years into a high-profile role as the chief enforcer on Wall Street and in corporate America's boardrooms.



The headline-grabbing post has become known by its initials, AG, sometimes derisively said to stand for "Aspiring Governor." It may also soon produce New York's second consecutive elected governor.



With Cuomo expected to drop a re-election bid and run for governor — whispers he refuses to confirm or deny — at least six people are considering trying to take over his job.



Former Gov. Eliot Spitzer was first the fabled "Sheriff of Wall Street" while taking on the financial world as attorney general. Despite his fall after a prostitution scandal, Spitzer remains New York's most ambitious attorney general, so far.



"Until Spitzer, no attorney general had been governor of New York since the early 19th century," said Gerald Benjamin, a political scientist and former dean at SUNY New Paltz. "We now have an attorney general who's been elected governor and an attorney general who may be running for governor, so it's a stepping stone and nationally consequential."



Cuomo has built on the office's reputation with headline-grabbing lawsuits and settlements. He has investigated national issues such as student loan officers, Medicaid fraud, online predators and players in the subprime mortgage industry implosion. But Republican Attorney General Dennis Vacco in the 1990s and Democrat Robert Abrams before him first started moving the office from that of a consumer protection agent and the state's civil lawyer to one of a formidable activist and enforcer.

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