Zephyr Teachout was one of three Democratic candidates for New York Attorney General in 2018. Teachout threatened to go after President Trump if elected. She lost to Letitia James in the September 13th primary. James will face Republican candidate Keith Wofford in the general election.
Here’s what you need to know.
1. Teachout Vowed to File a Lawsuit Against President Trump on Her First Day in Office if Elected to the Office of NY Attorney General
Zephyr Teachout made one promise crystal clear if she became the next attorney general for the state of New York. Her first order of business would have been to sue the president of the United States.
Teachout has accused President Trump of violating the Constitution. Since entering the Oval Office, he has allegedly financially benefited when representatives of foreign governments have stayed at his properties. He was asked to divest his assets and put them in a blind trust, but that never happened. Before his inauguration, Trump said his sons would run the business empire, but he never fully removed himself from the organization.
Teachout was part of the original team of litigators in 2016 that argued that Trump’s business dealings and hotels violated the “emoluments clause.” The case was brought by the attorneys general of Maryland and the District of Columbia. Teachout was an adviser on the case.
In July of 2018, a federal judge allowed the lawsuit to proceed, after the Department of Justice requested a dismissal. Prosecutors want to see the president’s financial information and to dig deeper into the Trump Organization’s financial history. D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine told NPR that the “historic ruling is a substantial step forward to ensure President Trump stops violating our nation’s original anti-corruption laws. The Constitution is clear: The president can’t accept money or other benefits from foreign or domestic governments.”
2. The New York Times Endorsed Teachout, Describing Her as an ‘Independent-Minded Lawyer’ Best Equipped to Fight Corruption and Stand Up to President Trump
The New York Times awarded their coveted endorsement to Zephyr Teachout on August 19th. The editorial described the office of attorney general as a “potential firewall against an out-of-control president and a historically corrupt New York State government.” (It is important to note that the editorial board of the newspaper is separate from the newsroom).
The piece points out several examples of recent ethical issues plaguing the New York state government. Some of those examples include:
– Former senior aide to Governor Andrew Cuomo, Joseph Percoco, was convicted on corruption charges. He was found guilty in March of 2018 in a bribery case.
– Former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver was also found guilty of corruption. He was sentenced to seven years in prison for accepting nearly $4 million in return for granting legislative favors.
– Former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos was expected to face prison time when he is sentenced in October on bribery and extortion charges. Prosecutors said he used his office to secure work for his son.
The New York Times wrote that “New Yorkers who feel they deserve better — presumably just about all of them — have the chance this fall to elect a strong and unencumbered attorney general capable of delivering it.” The piece concluded by stating that “Democrats who are seeking a means of standing up to the Trump presidency and graft in Albany can find in Ms. Teachout their most effective champion for democracy and civil rights, good government and the environment, workers’ rights, fair housing and gender equality.”
Teachout has also literally written the book on corruption. Corruption in America: From Benjamin Franklin’s Snuff Box to Citizens United was published in 2014.
3. Zephyr Teachout Will Give Birth to Her First Child in October
Zephyr Teachout and husband Nick Juliusburger tied the knot in August of 2016. They are expecting a baby, due to arrive in October. This will be Teachout’s first child. She was already pregnant when she made the choice to run for Attorney General back in May of 2018.
Zephyr did not mention her impending motherhood on her campaign website, but she did not shy away from it either. She did not bring it up often when discussing her candidacy, but answered questions when asked directly.
TIME quoted Zephyr as saying that she did not want her pregnancy to overshadow her qualifications for the job of attorney general. “Being pregnant does not change the fact that I wrote a book on corruption, or that I sued Donald Trump. Being pregnant doesn’t change the fact that I’ve been working on these issues for over 15 years. It doesn’t change the fact that I have a unique expertise.”
In an online advertisement, Zephyr discussed the fact that American voters should get used to seeing pregnant women on the campaign trail in the future. “As more women run for office in their 20s and 30s and 40s, we’re going to see a lot more women breastfeeding and pregnant while running and while in power. I think it’s a real watershed movement. We are redefining what leadership looks like.”
4. Teachout Also Received Endorsements From Senator Bernie Sanders and Congressional Candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
Zephyr Teachout reminded voters on primary day that she had the backing of popular independent Senator Bernie Sanders. She shared a video of him endorsing her on Facebook. He said of Teachout, “You will have a leader who has the guts to stand up to the billionaire class and tell these greedy people that they cannot have it all.”
Congressional candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who is running to represent New York in the House, has also stumped alongside Teachout on the campaign trail. She is returning a favor: Teachout was the only attorney general candidate to throw her support behind Ocasio-Cortez in her primary race.
A major reason why Teachout has attracted these kinds of endorsements and others is due to her unwillingness to accept certain donations. She was quoted on the campaign trail as saying that politics is New York is “poisoned by real estate money.” She refused to accept any donations from the real estate industry.
5. Teachout is a Law Professor and the Daughter of Two Legal Experts
Zephyr Teachout was a graduate of Yale University. But her loyalty now lies with Fordham University in New York City. She is an associate professor at the Law School, a position she has held since September 2009.
Her own legal education started at a young age. She was born October 24, 1971, to two legal experts. Teachout’s father, Peter Teachout, is a constitutional law professor at Vermont Law School. According to his bio on the university’s website, he also served in the Department of Intelligence of the U.S. Army from 1966 to 1969. He joined the Vermont faculty in 1975. According to Zephyr Teachout’s campaign website, her father was also active in the civil rights movement.
Her mother is Mary Miles Teachout, a state court judge in Vermont.
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