Letitia James Emerges As Frontrunner To Be Named Brooklyn DA (Updated)

Photo Credit: Stacie Joy (https://www.flickr.com/photos/editrixie/)

Several elected officials are quietly lobbying Governor Andrew Cuomo and the Kings County Democratic Party leadership to appoint Public Advocate Letitia James as the interim Brooklyn District Attorney, KCP has learned.

Sources say while the county continues to mourn the death of the standing Brooklyn District Attorney Kenneth Thompson yesterday, there is a mounting groundswell of Brooklyn political support for James.

Thompson announced on Oct. 4 that he had cancer and was taking sick leave to fight the disease. In stepping down, he named his chief assistant Eric Gonzalez as an interim to head the DA’s office. Gonzalez is well-respected in the legal community and also remains in talks to replace Thompson, who was up for re-election next year.

It is up to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to either stick with Gonzalez or name a replacement, but sources expect him to huddle with Kings County Party Chair Frank Seddio and other Brooklyn leaders to come up with a consensus pick. Several Central Brooklyn elected officials are lobbying for James, who came out of the politically powerful Vanguard Independent Democratic Association (VIDA) political club, sources said.

Whoever Cuomo names will probably also run in the Democratic Primary for District Attorney next September.

Public Advocate Letitia James
Public Advocate Letitia James

James, a former Fort Greene City Councilwoman and lifelong Brooklynite is something of a legal eagle and is thought to have an excellent background for the role of the borough’s chief prosecutor. She went to New York City public schools and received her B.A. from the City University of New York’s Lehman College in 1981.

James graduated from the Howard University School of Law in Washington, D.C. and d was admitted to practice law in New York state in 1989. She also served as a public defender for the Legal Aid Society.

If James was named as the Brooklyn DA, it would likely take her out of the running for mayor possibly next year or in 2021.

However, political pundits often think that being New York City Mayor is something of a dead-end to holding higher political office, whereas being district attorney for the state’s largest county could put James on a different political trajectory and position to possibly run for statewide office.

But the lobbying on James’ behalf is already getting some pushback in state political circles.

“While we mourn the sudden passing of a thoughtful prosecutor, politics takes no days off,” said one Brooklyn political consultant active in both New York City and Albany. “Tish has long been positioned to run for NYS Attorney General in the event the opportunity arises for Eric Schneiderman to run for Governor. Her office has strategically been active in legal matters to burnish her lawyering credentials. The Governor should think very carefully about who he is empowering here, as her supporters are certainly not his friends.”

James responded that, “This is a time to mourn and to celebrate the great life of Ken Thompson. Any political discussions must take a back seat as we continue this mourning process. Meanwhile, the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office is in the capable hands of Chief Assistant District Attorney Eric Gonzalez and the executive team.”