While Andrew Cuomo and Mark Green scrap for their political lives as front-runners for the Democratic nomination for attorney general, Sean Patrick Maloney is hoping that people think of him as “the best candidate that can’t win.” His enthusiastic, non-nasty debate performances certainly were comparatively refreshing—if a bit indistinct. Maloney, 40, works as a corporate lawyer and cut his political teeth as President Clinton’s staff secretary. He’s pro–death penalty, wants to sue the federal government over phone taps and emphasizes that he’s “not running as the gay guy.” He spoke to Geoffrey Gray in his chic, Shoji-screen-decorated midtown campaign office.
How are Cuomo and Green doing?
One is playing it safe, the other is gonna slash and burn. Neither strategy gives you anything to vote for.
What’s your breakout strategy?
In this race, this two-lane highway is going to widen to three lanes while these guys fight, because people want something else.
Do you think running as an openly gay candidate has helped you or hurt you?
No idea. I have no idea! I mean, it’s who I am and I’m proud of who I am, and I’m not going to live my life or run this race like I’m not proud of it. Here’s what gay people know: At some point in your life, you can chase everybody’s approval or you can seek their respect. It’s more powerful to be respected.
You and your partner adopted three children. What do you think of the Court of Appeals decision on gay marriage?
It couldn’t be any worse. It’s a tin can tied to a leg of this court that’s going to rattle behind it. It’s just wrong.
What’s your relationship with Bill Clinton like now?
I think you’d describe him as a mentor, but, look, it’s not like we’re going out to get snow cones together.
Jann Wenner is one of your big contributors.
He’s pretty cool, I gotta say. In my next life, I want to be Jann Wenner.
What makes him cool?
Anybody who has pictures of Mick and Springsteen hanging out in their kitchen is pretty cool. Seriously, I like the energy. It sounds kind of New Agey. I like people who can see what other people can’t yet imagine. And I think he’s one of those people … I want to be one of those people.
Do you have a hero?
Atticus Finch. That’s who I want to be when I grow up. He’s the greatest guy ever—a good dad, a good lawyer, doing the right thing. And he knows he’s not supposed to win, but he’s doing it anyway.