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Many eager to replace Cuomo as state AG

   For months, Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo has made nary a peep about any job other than the one he has.

   But a whole lot of Democrats wishing to succeed him think he's running for governor, and most of them have joined the parade through Buffalo.

   The latest to test Western New York's political waters is Sean Coffey, a Long Island attorney who served as a naval officer for 30 years and later as a federal prosecutor and then a Wall Street attorney. Coffey met Wednesday with Democratic leaders and donors in Erie and Niagara counties -- his second trip to the area in as many weeks. He also stopped by The Buffalo News.

   He joins other serious contenders who have visited Buffalo in recent weeks to explore a run for attorney general, including Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice, former Insurance Superintendent Eric Dinallo and Assemblyman Richard Brodsky of Westchester County. Like anyone who wins the job of attorney general, Coffey wants to put his own stamp on the office.

   And if he is successful, he thinks the mood of an angry electorate almost demands that the next attorney general be an agent of change and reform.

   "When you have transparency and accountability, the system works," he said. "Right now, we don't have transparency and accountability in Albany."

   Coffey says his experience as an Annapolis graduate, Navy pilot and New York attorney has  prepared him to be attorney general at a time when voters are looking for something other than career politicians.

   "I gave a talk the other day and told the group I was not a career politician," he said. "They burst into applause."

   Coffey is no stranger to Western New York, even if his grammar school days in Niagara Falls are not exactly seared into his memory. His Irish immigrant parents brought him to the area back when his union carpenter father worked on the Niagara Power Project. Coffey says he maintains much of his parents' values, and hopes they will help him connect with labor unions and other core Democratic constituencies.

   All of the Democratic hopefuls have proven successful in the key area of raising money. Coffey has about $1.67 million in his treasury so far -- including some raised locally on Wednesday.

   Like the others, he is courting party honchos like Erie County Democratic Chairman Leonard R. Lenihan, and is hoping to gain 25 percent of the vote at the Democratic State Convention in May to qualify for the September primary ballot.

   "At the Naval Academy they teach you to be willing to give up your life for the mission, and as a result, I've been very mission-oriented ever since," he said. "Albany is my next mission, and I'm willing to do what I have to do." 

 -- Robert J. McCarthy

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