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Schneiderman exit spurs flurry of political activity

While some aspirants for state attorney general were ramping up their efforts to replace the disgraced Eric T. Schneiderman Wednesday, others were dropping out.

And in the Capitol, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and legislative leaders were defining their roles in determining how to go about appointing an interim replacement.

It all added up to an unexpected and unscheduled flurry of activity following Schneiderman's Tuesday resignation as the state's top legal officer amid claims that he physically abused four women. That included what one GOP source described as "intensifying" efforts to lure former Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner John P. Cahill into the race.

In addition, Cuomo and Assembly Speaker Carl E. Heastie said Wednesday they are cognizant of state party conventions in two weeks to nominate attorney general candidates who will face the voters in primary and general elections. But in the meantime, the two state leaders say they will begin a process in which the entire Legislature – dominated by Assembly Democrats – will name an interim replacement.

“Let’s see who is interested. Let’s have a discussion. Let’s have a vetting process,” Cuomo told reporters while riding a Brooklyn subway. “There’s no great rush.”

Heastie, meanwhile, told Capitol reporters he looks for screenings and interviews of candidates interested in the temporary appointment will begin in the next couple of weeks.

“We’re going to have public hearings,” he said. “This is actually a good thing with the upcoming conventions.”

Following a Monday night New Yorker magazine story outlining allegations of four women who said Schneiderman physically assaulted them (which he denies but acknowledges “role-playing” during consensual sex, the attorney general abruptly resigned. But because he was viewed as the heavy favorite to gain a third term, neither Democrats nor Republicans were prepared for the constitutional and political requirements they now face.

Cuomo also elaborated Wednesday on his Tuesday appointment of Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas as a special prosecutor to investigate the women’s allegations against Schneiderman, insisting that it would be inappropriate for Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. to assume the role. The governor said that because Vance had come under fire for failing to aggressively investigate sexual abuse claims raised against film mogul Harvey Weinstein, and because Schneiderman was probing those charges, he saw the need to name a special prosecutor.

Cuomo said the Singas would have broad powers to subpoena, investigate and prosecute.

“We now have a situation in which the attorney general and the Attorney General’s Office have to be investigated,” he said. “Most important, I want the victims in this case to know they will get a full, fair and objective look at the facts.”

While Cahill, a longtime associate of former Gov. George E. Pataki and a 2014 candidate for the post was gaining new GOP attention, state Sen. John A. DeFrancisco of Onondaga County told the Daily News he will not run. Republican state Sen. Andrew Lanza said he may enter the contest.

Democrats continue to discuss names such as Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, Reps. Kathleen Rice and Sean Patrick Maloney, and Buffalo native Leecia R. Eve, a one-time lieutenant governor aspirant and counsel to Sen. Hillary Clinton.

Others Democrats include former Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, 2014 gubernatorial hopeful Zephyr Teachout and former Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner.

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