Entering last week, New York Republicans knew who their gubernatorial nominee would be (Marc Molinaro) and who would receive the nod for lieutenant governor (Julie Killian). But the two remaining statewide elected positions — attorney general and comptroller — were up in the air.
On Thursday, Republicans nominated New York City attorney Keith Wofford to be the party's candidate for state attorney general. He is the first African-American to receive the GOP nomination for attorney general.
Wofford is a Buffalo native — he grew up on the city's east side — and a Harvard Law School graduate. He is now co-managing partner of Ropes & Gray's New York City office, where his focus is on bankruptcies, creditors' rights and other financial matters.
A political newcomer, Wofford didn't enter the race for attorney general until Tuesday — the eve of the state GOP convention.
"There are large problems in terms of the difference between the money we're putting in and the services coming out that need to be fixed," he said in a phone interview Friday. "It's clear that you need someone outside the system to do it."
Wofford pledged to make combating public corruption a priority if he is elected state attorney general. But he doesn't want to use the office as a vehicle for politically motivated lawsuits, which he believes occurred under former state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who was party to several legal challenges against actions taken by President Donald Trump's administration.
He would continue legal actions or bring lawsuits "if there is something legally meritorious for the taxpayers of New York state" and if it's within the scope of the attorney general's powers. If it's not beneficial to the state, he said, he wouldn't continue the litigation.
"I'm not going to waste the taxpayers' money on litigations that are not meritorious, whether it's against the United States government or anyone else," he said.
Wofford is attempting to snap a losing streak for Republicans. The GOP hasn't won a statewide race in New York since 2002, when George Pataki was re-elected governor. Since then, Republicans were shut out in the 2006, 2010 and 2014 statewide elections.
There are a few reasons why Wofford believes he can be successful this year, despite talk it could be a "wave" election year for Democrats and the Democratic voter enrollment advantage in New York.
Voters are tired of the ongoing corruption in Albany and the economic downfall of upstate New York has left many disappointed and frustrated, he explained.
"The Republican Party's message is a message of reform. That's the one unifying factor," he said. "Voters want that reform."
He also believes Republicans are appealing to minority and underserved communities that traditionally haven't supported GOP candidates in elections. He noted that the top two candidates for attorney general at the nominating convention were African-American lawyers. (The other was Joe Holland, a Harlem attorney with Auburn ties.)
"That is not the caricature definition of the Republican Party, but that's the reality of the Republican Party and people are gonna start realizing it," Wofford said. "And that's going to make us extraordinarily competitive in the fall."
Wofford is expected to face Democratic nominee Tish James in the general election. However, there may be a Democratic primary for attorney general.
For the state comptroller's race, Republicans nominated a former Democratic strategist. Jonathan Trichter won the nomination at the convention Thursday. He beat out Manny Alicandro, who briefly sought the nomination for attorney general, for the designation.
Trichter, like Wofford, hasn't run for political office before. But he isn't new to politics. He worked for Eliot Spitzer's campaign for attorney general in 1998 and advised Republican candidate Harry Wilson's campaign against current state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli in 2010.
To run on the Republican line, Trichter obtained a Wilson-Pakula authorization. The Wilson-Pakula authorizes candidates who aren't members of a certain political party to run on that party's ballot line. Trichter has changed his party affiliation to Republican, but it won't take effect until after the election.
"I've always viewed this office as apolitical and nonideological," he said in a phone interview. "It's an office that's structured to act as the chief fiscal officer over Albany politicians. In the past, that's been problematic whenever Albany politicians were in charge of the office. Considering the fact that it's an office that requires private sector expertise and shouldn't really be political, I just never took the politics to be as important as the professional responsibilities of the office itself."
With the nominating convention behind him, Trichter will unveil proposals in the coming days detailing how to improve the state comptroller's office. Part of his plan will focus on DiNapoli's management of the state pension fund.
The comptroller is the sole trustee of the $206 billion pension fund.
Trichter has experience with public pension systems. While at MAEVA Group, the municipal restructuring unit he led was selected by The Pew Charitable Trusts to focus on public pension system overhauls.
He believes his experience will make him a competitive candidate in the race against DiNapoli, who has been in office since 2007.
"The job is structured for somebody with the skills that are accumulated and acquired in the private sector," he said.