Letitia James, Weighing Political Calculus, Enters Attorney General Race

Ms. James also served as a counsel to the State Assembly and also as a Brooklyn councilwoman.

Now in her second term as the public advocate, Ms. James has used the office to take on neglectful landlords and the city. She filed several lawsuits against the city, including ones challenging the treatment of children in foster care by the Administration for Children’s Services, and the Department of Education for not providing adequate air conditioning for mentally disabled children on its buses during the summer.

“The law is our most effective tool for justice,” Ms. James said.

Ms. James’s office, however, was ultimately removed from several lawsuits because it was determined that the public advocate did not have the standing to file or join the lawsuit.

Ms. James, who often presides over Council meetings seated in a red and white upholstered chair marked with a giant star, has also used the public advocate’s office to introduce 48 pieces of legislation, 10 of which are now law. One of Ms. James’s signature pieces of legislation is a bill that prevents employers from asking job applicants their previous salary. The practice often keeps women from earning as much as men, Ms. James said.

Before Mr. Schneiderman’s resignation, Ms. James’s political future was squarely focused on running for mayor in 2021.

She was often mentioned as a leading early mayoral candidate, along with other city officials such as the comptroller, Scott M. Stringer, the Brooklyn borough president, Eric L. Adams, and the Bronx borough president, Ruben Diaz Jr.

Ms. James’s interest in becoming attorney general is not her first flirtation with a public office other than the one she currently holds. After the death of Kenneth P. Thompson, the first black district attorney of Brooklyn, Ms. James saw her name floated as an interim replacement. Although she eventually pulled out of contention, she drew criticism for her display of ambition — something that Ms. James’s supporters said that a male candidate would not have received.

Ms. James betrayed no concerns during her announcement, where she displayed both swagger and humor. But she has never run a statewide campaign, and that promises to be very different than her two citywide efforts.