The five Democratic candidates who square off in Tuesday's primary for attorney general all promise to take a hard line on public corruption, help prevent another Wall Street meltdown and protect the rights and welfare of average New Yorkers.

The office, with some 700 lawyers, defends the state in lawsuits, protects consumers, files civil suits, monitors charities and sometimes conducts investigations and prosecutions.

The five are former insurance superintendent and assistant attorney general Eric Dinallo, Assemblyman Richard Brodsky, former federal prosecutor and trial attorney Sean Coffey, Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice, and state Sen. Eric Schneiderman.

The winner faces Staten Island District Attorney Dan Donovan, the Republican candidate, on Nov. 2.

Democratic Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, like his predecessor Eliot Spitzer, gathered headlines in major investigations and settlements and launched a bid for governor.

Rice, 45, from Locust Valley, now in her second term, has reported the most campaign donations and appeared to have the quiet support of gubernatorial front-runner Cuomo, who hasn't formally endorsed anyone. She has said her first initiative would be a legislative push to give the attorney general's office primary jurisdiction in public corruption cases.

Dinallo, 47, from Manhattan, headed the attorney general's Investor Protection Bureau that developed the strategy under Spitzer to use New York's anti-fraud Martin Act to go after big financial companies and force large settlements. He plans to ask the next governor to grant a broad mandate for investigating public officials.

Coffey, 54, a former naval aviator and assistant U.S. Attorney from Westchester County, has won major shareholder settlements from failed telecommunications giant WorldCom and from JPMorgan.

Brodsky, 64, from Westchester County, said he's spent years as a legislator facing down powerful interests like the Metropolitan Transportation Administration and the New York Yankees and promised to continue as the state's top lawyer on behalf of average New Yorkers. He's giving up his Assembly seat.

Schneiderman, from Manhattan, is giving up his legislative seat after 12 years to run. He led the investigation this year that forced the expulsion of Sen. Hiram Monserrate, a fellow Democrat convicted of misdemeanor assault in a domestic incident. He has promised to create an elite unit to force reforms in the consumer debt and mortgage markets.

(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)