U.S. Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney has opposed President Donald Trump's policies in Congress, but he's seeking to play a bigger role in that fight.
Maloney is one of four Democratic candidates for New York attorney general. The primary election is Thursday.
It's the second time Maloney has been a candidate for state attorney general. In 2006, he ran in a four-way primary for the Democratic nomination. He finished a distant third behind Andrew Cuomo, who went on to serve as the chief's top law enforcement officer for one term before being elected governor in 2010.
Maloney views the New York attorney general's office as the "primary line of defense" against Trump administration policies. In an interview with The Citizen, he stressed the importance of protecting the state from hostile federal policies, including efforts to dismantle the Affordable Care Act and a tax overhaul passed last year that contains a provision, a $10,000 cap on state and local tax deductions, that affects many New Yorkers.
"This is the cop on the beat that is holding the president accountable and making sure his administration doesn't hurt New York," Maloney said of the attorney general's responsibilities.
He lauded state Attorney General Barbara Underwood for existing efforts to fight back against Trump's policies. One example: Underwood has filed a lawsuit challenging the cap on state and local tax deductions. The attorney general's office is also engaged in challenges to prevent immigrant children from being separated from their parents and preserving women's access to reproductive health services.
The attorney general's office is active on another front: Challenging the rollback of environmental regulations that Maloney believes help curb climate change.
"The office is literally on the front line of every important fight, from health care to civil rights and the environment," he said. "I plan to continue that work."
Like his opponents in the primary, Maloney says combating public corruption in state government is a priority. There have been several corruption cases over the years that have led to the convictions of Democrats and Republicans. Two members of Cuomo's administration were recently convicted in separate bribery and bid-rigging trials. Two former state legislative leaders have been convicted of charges, too.
Maloney said he wants to fight corruption in state government "with a sledgehammer." To achieve that goal, he believes the state attorney general needs primary civil and criminal jurisdiction to handle corruption cases.
"We've never done that, and that's why we still have a problem," he said. "We need to change that and we need to use every authority we have to fight corruption in the White House and fight corruption in the state of New York. We have seen way too much of it and we don't need to put up with it."
Criminal justice reform is also on his agenda. He supports several proposals, including ending cash bail, investigating discriminatory jury selection practices and supporting programs that allow for reentry into communities.
He also plans to make addressing the opioid crisis a priority as attorney general. He supports pre-booking drug diversion programs that would allow addicts to get the treatment they need and free up courts and jails. He introduced a similar bill in Congress that would support states by funding drug diversion programs.
Maloney believes he's the best choice for Democrats because of his experience. In addition to being a member of Congress since 2013, he was an attorney in the private sector and worked in President Bill Clinton's administration.
"I am the only candidate that has beaten the Republicans time after time in real tough fights at the ballot box, in the House of Representatives and in the courts," he said. "I've been in the fight against the tea party and Donald Trump, and I've beaten them every time. Right now, the Democratic Party needs to win and it needs people who have been in tough fights. I'm the only candidate who has been in those fights with the Republicans."