(NY DAILY NEWS) – New York City Public Advocate Letitia James Tuesday night made history by becoming the first black woman elected state attorney general.
James, a Democrat, cruised to victory over Republican corporate lawyer and first-time candidate Keith Wofford. With more than 81% of the precincts reporting as of 12:15 p.m., James led Wofford by a 59.7% to 34.3% margin.
Both James, 60, and Wofford, 49, were vying to become the state’s first black attorney general.
James had already made history as the first black woman elected to citywide office when she became public advocate in 2013.
“At a time when we’re seeing such vitriol, and such hate on a national level, led by someone who is supposed to be a voice for all Americans, I am proud to stand here as a New Yorker who knows that it’s our diversity, our strength, our courage and our determination that makes us great,” James said in her victory speech in her home borough of Brooklyn.
She added that “to all those little girls out there, all of those little girls across this state, for all of you who have been discounted, all of you who have been underestimated, I know, just like me, each and every time they bet against you, I know you will out perform them.”.
In a phone interview with the Daily News, the Rev. Al Sharpton called James’ attorney general victory Tuesday a “huge deal.”
“Particularly in the attorney general’s office,” Sharpton said, “because a lot of our civil rights and social justice movement in the state has been around criminal justice and involves the attorney general’s office, to have a woman of color over that office shows a real growth and empowerment.”
“It doesn’t mean she’ll be partial, but it means she has a broader understanding of the residents of the state that her predecessors didn’t have from Buffalo to Brooklyn,” Sharpton added.
James is just the second black person elected to statewide office in New York, following former Controller Carl McCall. David Paterson was the first black governor, but he was not elected but rather was elevated from lieutenant governor when Gov. Eliot Spitzer resigned in disgrace in 2008 after being caught up in a high-price call girl scandal.
James also becomes the first woman elected to the office. Current Attorney General Barbara Underwood was appointed to the position after two-term AG Eric Schneiderman abruptly resigned in May following a report that he physically assaulted four women he had dated.