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Schneiderman wins primary for NY attorney general

By Basil Katz

NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York State Senator Eric Schneiderman claimed victory on Wednesday in the Democratic primary for state attorney general, a job that comes with the unofficial title of "sheriff of Wall Street."

Schneiderman, 55, was one of five candidates competing for the Democratic nomination to succeed Andrew Cuomo as the state's chief prosecutor. Before Cuomo, Eliot Spitzer had made aggressive enforcement of financial laws a key part of the job.

Coming in a close second, Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice conceded the race to Schneiderman, as analysts highlighted the low turnout and lack of voter interest the primary campaigns mustered.

Schneiderman will face Staten Island District Attorney Dan Donovan, the lone Republican running for the job in the heavily Democratic state in the November 2 general election.

Schneiderman, who represents parts of Manhattan and the Bronx as a state senator, had the endorsements of the New York Times, the Albany Times Union and good government group Citizens Union as well as prominent black, Latino and labor leaders.

Ahead of the election, Schneiderman told Reuters he had the right training and right temperament to be attorney general. He said the "sheriff of Wall Street" tag that comes with the job is as important as ever, given the fragility of the economic recovery.

"People who say we don't need the AG to be the sheriff of Wall Street are dead wrong at a time where there is still a lot of turbulence in the markets," Schneiderman said.

Before entering the Senate in 1998, Schneiderman, a Manhattan native, attended Harvard Law School and spent 15 years in private practice, where he took on white collar and public interest cases.

In the Senate, he has pushed for ethics reforms, overhauling the state's strict Rockefeller drug laws and expanding legal recourse for the wrongfully convicted.

"I have been acknowledged for ... being a fighter for reform even in the chaos that is the state Senate," Schneiderman said.

Since Spitzer held the job from 1998 to 2007, the post of New York attorney general has been among the most high profile in the country. For Spitzer and Cuomo it also became a launching pad for higher state office.

Spitzer successfully ran for governor in 2006 but resigned in 2008 when he was caught in a prostitution scandal.

Cuomo is the Democratic front-runner for the governor's job this year.

(Editing by Bill Trott)