NY State Attorney General Democratic Primary Debate Through The Eyes of John Jay Students

On August 28th the four Democratic candidates for New York State Attorney General came to John Jay for a heated debate moderated by NY1’s Errol Louis and Spectrum News’ Liz Benjamin. Many John Jay students submitted questions for the candidates—Leecia Eve, Letitia James, Sean Patrick Maloney, and Zephyr Teachout—but four student ambassadors had the added opportunity to meet and speak directly with the candidates, while getting a behind-the-scenes look at the political arena. We spoke to the student ambassadors both before and after the event to get their thoughts on the debate.

John Jay Student Ambassadors: (left to right) Elza Kochueva, Cataydra Brown, Karla Galiano Herrera, Kavon Lee


“I was surprised that the candidates didn’t spend enough time on immigration issues. It’s one of the crucial problems of our city, state, and the nation.” —Elza Kochueva


Elza Kochueva

Student Ambassador: Elza Kochueva, Senior
Major: Law and Society

Before the Event:
“As the Vice President, I’m excited to hear the candidates talk about immigration because the previous Attorney General spent a lot of time filing lawsuits about immigration. Since I want to be an attorney, this debate is a great opportunity for me to not only network, but to get a behind-the-scenes look at the life of a politician or council member.”

After the Event:
“I learned that all candidates agree that the position of Attorney General must be independent, free from the influence of other officials. I’m glad that they spent time making sure that it was clear that the Attorney General’s office must be neutral. However, I was surprised that the candidates didn’t spend enough time on immigration issues. It’s one of the crucial problems of our city, state, and the nation. I was disappointed that that didn’t happen. I was fortunate enough to speak with candidates, Sean Patrick Maloney and Leecia Eve, and am grateful that they spent their time talking with John Jay students. It shows their appreciation for young voices.”

“My favorite part was being able to talk with the candidates, who were all friendly and full of energy and enthusiasm.” —Karla Galiano Herrera


Karla Galiano Herrera

Student Ambassador: Karla Galiano Herrera, Junior
Majors: Law and Society and Latin American Studies

Before the Event:
“I look forward to being able to get the candidates standpoint on immigration. As the previous President for the John Jay Dreamers and future immigration attorney, immigration is something that I am passionate about, especially for the undocumented students here at John Jay. With students coming from a mixed status family, I really want to know how the candidates’ future politics are going to affect not only the students at John Jay, but their families and communities.”

After the event:
“While some of my questions in regard to immigration where not answered, I was still impressed by the debate and some of the answers from the candidates. I was actually quite impressed by Tish James’ views on fair housing and protecting immigrants from fraudulent organizations, and from being taken advantage of because of their status. I was extremely impressed by all the hard work that the stage and tech crew did behind the scenes. They were there from the early morning and left almost past midnight, constantly checking and retesting all the equipment so they could get as close to perfection as possible.”

“My favorite part of the debate was the cross between the candidates.” —Kavon Lee


Kavon Lee

Student Ambassador: Kavon Lee, Senior
Major: Political Science

Before the Event:
“For me it’s important to see the stances each candidate has. With this upcoming election we have had a lot of controversy. So I would like to see what kinds of reforms they would bring, especially in regards to criminal justice and education. In particular, I would like to see lesser sentences for minimal crimes like possession of marijuana, because institutionalizing people for petty crimes increases recidivism rates for prisons.”

After the Event:
“I enjoyed learning more about the candidates and their stances on issues like prison reform, which is something that really concerns me. My favorite part of the debate was the cross between the candidates. Watching the candidates pose questions and state their rebuttals really caught me. I was truly captivated by Tish James. Her presence commands the room.”


“I’m looking forward to casting my primary vote on Thursday, September 13th.” —Cataydra Brown



Cataydra Brown

Student Ambassador: Cataydra Brown, Senior
Major: Law and Society

Before the Event:
“As a student in the honor’s program, I am excited just to see the candidates talk about all the issues. There are some really pressing issues right now, and I’m curious to see how all four of them navigate through the questions. Specifically, I would like to see how the candidates answer the questions students submitted about how they would better our community.”

After the Event:
“It was interesting to be a part of the backstage production and have access to the theater while Spectrum/NY1 set up the event. We also had permission to enter the green room while the candidates were preparing for the debate. My favorite part was being able to sit in the front row while the debate was happening. I was able to get a better understanding of the candidates and where they stand on issues important to me, including, housing, mass incarceration, and immigration. I’m looking forward to casting my primary vote on Thursday, September 13th.”