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Attorney general


The election for state attorney general features two candidates not that well known statewide but with significant records of government service.

On the Democratic side is state Sen. Eric T. Schneiderman, who has represented Manhattan in Albany for 12 years. His Republican opponent is Staten Island District Attorney Daniel M. Donovan Jr., who has served in that office since 2003.

Both candidates are attorneys and have stated a desire to root out corruption in state government — a subject that resonates with the public mood concerning Albany.

In a debate earlier this month, Sen. Schneiderman said: "Albany is a mess. I'm proud to have been recognized as a leader in the movement to reform Albany." He led the committee that recommended the dismissal of fellow Sen. Hiram Monserrate, who was convicted of abusing his girlfriend.

Mr. Donovan has said he will use his experience as a prosecutor to "to clean up Albany and the corruption that lies there." He wants the attorney general to have clear jurisdiction in corruption cases and would require legislators to provide more details about the money they steer to nonprofit groups as well as their outside income.

On that issue, Mr. Donovan would seem to hold the edge. He has amassed an impressive record as DA, with a felony conviction rate that exceeds 90 percent, one of the state's highest. More importantly, he would be approaching the problem with independence and a fresh perspective.

Sen. Schneiderman has sponsored legislation for ethics reform in government, but he is also part of a Democratic leadership structure in the Senate that has failed to provide good government in recent years.

The senator has also indicated he would crack down on crimes in financial markets, "protecting homeowners and consumers from bad actors on Wall Street." While agreeing that such crimes should be prosecuted, Mr. Donovan notes that Wall Street generates revenues for New York and that cases should be undertaken for good cause and not "simply to get headlines."

Both candidates have websites with more details of their platforms. Sen. Schneiderman cites environmental protection, public safety, reproductive freedom and women's health, economic justice and the rights of homosexuals among his emphases.

Mr. Donovan's areas of emphasis include state contractors and pensions, terrorism, Medicaid fraud, domestic violence, sex offenders and mortgage fraud.

Sen. Schneiderman has pledged to use the office to fight for "social justice" and vowed to be an "activist attorney general." Mr. Donovan has pointed to his record of prosecuting an array of crimes during his years as district attorney.

The office of New York state attorney general requires administrative skill, thorough knowledge of the law, sound judgment, a keen awareness of social, business and government interactions throughout the state and a desire to look out for New Yorkers' interests.

The attorney general is the state's chief legal officer. Heading a staff of more than 600 lawyers, the attorney general protects consumers against fraud, guards the environment and public health against polluters, files civil suits, protects the human and civil rights of New Yorkers and safeguards the rights of workers and injured employees.

The attorney general's jurisdiction is broad, so decisions regarding what to pursue must be well reasoned. Focus is important, and the attorney general should not pursue a partisan or ideological agenda.

By temperament and experience, Mr. Donovan appears better suited for the office. The Times endorses Daniel M. Donovan for New York state attorney general.

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