The New York State Constitution spells out a variety of duties for the attorney general. But when you come right down to it, the attorney general acts as the state's lawyer.
Apart from that, it's pretty much the prerogative of each attorney general to define how he or she wants to run the office.
For Robert Abrams, consumer affairs topped his agenda. Dennis C. Vacco brought his experience as a U.S. attorney to the office and emphasized criminal matters. And Eliot L. Spitzer carved out a reputation as the "sheriff of Wall Street."
Now along comes Andrew M. Cuomo, who has already established a penchant for opening up secret aspects of state government and advocating consolidation of unnecessary government levels.
But he also seems to be seizing on the opportunity to clean up the debt collection industry, which has a heavy concentration in Buffalo. On Tuesday his investigators and Erie County sheriff's deputies swept into a Harvard Place residence and took out in handcuffs Tobias Boyland, 43, a convicted felon who had been operating a debt collection business in Buffalo.
Cuomo called Boyland's tactics "some of the most egregious we have seen." They involved impersonating police officers to scare those with delinquent bills into paying up.
In one instance, the debt collector identifying himself as a policeman told a woman to get care for her kids.
"Get some clean clothes because you're not coming home any time soon," the debt collector
It appears that Cuomo is carving out his own niche as attorney general, picking and choosing spots that will, in all probability, resonate with New York voters.
All of this becomes particularly relevant in light of the current stalemate surrounding the State Senate. As Republicans and Democrats bicker over who controls their chamber, and as Gov. David A. Paterson struggles to impose some semblance of order, Cuomo emerges as one of the few state officials actually in charge.
And of course, speculation continues to mount over whether the attorney general will be the Democratic candidate for governor in 2010 — especially if Paterson's approval ratings continue to dwell at record low levels.
How do you rate Cuomo's performance as attorney general? And do you believe he will be New
York's next governor?
— Robert J. McCarthy