WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. – Westchester County District Attorney Jeanine Pirro (search) said Monday that she will not run for re-election this year and will instead seek statewide office in 2006, possibly by running for the U.S. Senate against Hillary Rodham Clinton (search).
Pirro told The Associated Press that she has not decided which office to seek, but she mentioned three possibilities: state attorney general, the office being vacated by Democrat Eliot Spitzer (search); the Senate; and governor, if Republican George Pataki (search) decides against another term.
Asked if she thought she could beat Clinton, Pirro refused to answer directly, but said, "I have never been afraid of challenges, no matter how daunting. I have really been a person who actually seeks out challenges. The more you say I can't do something, the more I want to do it. ... Whatever office I run for, I will run to win and for no other reason."
Pirro is reportedly a favored candidate of the White House political office because it's believed a moderate Republican like Pirro — who supports abortion rights — could weaken Clinton in 2006 and damage her presidential chances in 2008.
Pirro said state attorney general was an attractive office because "law enforcement is in my blood."
The district attorney said she decided against seeking re-election because, "I'm not about to ask the people of Westchester to vote for me for D.A. and then the following week turn around and announce I'm running for another office," Pirro said. "That would be fundamentally dishonest."
The decision to leave was "one of the most difficult decisions I've ever made because I love this job," she told the AP in a phone interview. "But it's time to do more elsewhere. I've gone to Washington, I've gone to Albany, I've knocked on doors and now I want to answer those doors."
Pirro, 53, has won praise in Westchester and beyond for such programs as her Internet stings of would-be child molesters and her battle against underage drinking. She is often seen on national television as a commentator on high-profile crimes. In 1997, she made People magazine's "most beautiful people" list.
Though Pirro has long proven to be popular with voters, her most recent re-election, in 2001, was her narrowest, by just 6 percentage points over Democrat Tony Castro (search), a former Bronx prosecutor who is again the Democratic candidate.
Pirro ran the 2001 race while her husband, Albert Pirro (search), was in federal prison for tax fraud, and he has been an issue in each of her campaigns.
Her 1997 re-election announcement came while her husband was under federal investigation and dealing with a paternity suit, eventually successful, that was filed by an Indiana woman.
In 1986, she was briefly the GOP candidate for lieutenant governor but withdrew when Albert Pirro, then a real-estate lawyer and major Republican fund-raiser, refused to make public information about his practice.
In the past month, there have been two cases of unsubstantiated claims that Albert Pirro could get inside information on criminal investigations and relay the information to others. He and the district attorney have denied it, but Castro said, "Should the allegations be borne out, Mrs. Pirro should resign her position immediately."
Asked if she thought her husband would be an issue in a statewide campaign, Jeanine Pirro said Monday, "I think that the people of this state are smart enough to recognize that when they're voting for a candidate they're voting for a candidate. ... Shame on anyone who thinks it's about an appendage or someone in my family. It's not. It's about me and I'm proud of my record."