Campaigns & Elections

UPDATED: Letitia James is running for governor

The state attorney general is entering an increasingly crowded Democratic primary field.

Letitia James is entering an increasingly crowded Democratic primary field.

Letitia James is entering an increasingly crowded Democratic primary field. lev radin/Shutterstock

State Attorney General Letitia James is running for governor. She officially launched her campaign to challenge Gov. Kathy Hochul in the 2022 Democratic primary with a short campaign video on Friday afternoon. 

James could become the first Black woman ever elected as a governor in the history of the United States if she can defeat Hochul and a growing field of other candidates in the Democratic primary next June. Such an historical achievement hinges on James’ ability to strike a balance between competing factions of her party while competing with Hochul and others for campaign contributors and endorsements.

“I’ve spent my career guided by a simple principle: stand up to the powerful on behalf of the vulnerable,” James says in the video, which serves as a 1 minute, 23 second campaign ad. James highlights her record as attorney general, saying that she has “fought for better conditions and transparency in nursing homes” – an apparent nod to her January report that found former Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration undercounted deaths from COVID-19 in nursing homes. 

James also says she has sued former President Donald Trump’s administration 76 times. Trump could loom large in the coming primary. James’ office announced in May that it had joined the ongoing criminal inquiry into the former president’s company, The Trump Organization. 

The official launch comes after a statement attributed to James campaign advisor Kimberly Peeler-Allen was sent out to media Wednesday evening, saying “Attorney General Letitia James has made a decision regarding the governor’s race. She will be announcing it in the coming days."

Her candidacy has been a matter of much speculation over the past year, especially since the release of a report from her office this summer detailing sexual harassment by Cuomo. Hochul has had notable success since then in inheriting Cuomo’s donors alongside key supporters like state Democratic Party Chair Jay Jacobs, but James has a long history of winning elections with the support of powerful constituencies like Black voters, white progressives and organized labor. She first won election in 2003 to the New York City Council solely on the ballot line of the Working Families Party, but her reliance on the progressive group has waned in recent years. One sign of that shift is James’ hiring of Peeler-Allen as senior advisor, who recently worked on big business friendly campaigns including Michael Bloomberg’s presidential run and an independent expenditure committee that raised $6.9 million to support Ray McGuire’s campaign to be New York City mayor.  

James declined to seek the WFP endorsement in her 2018 race for state attorney general and still won handily. Her political profile statewide has grown enormously since then, especially considering her various legal battles against former President Donald Trump and her office’s scathing reports on alleged sexual misconduct by Cuomo, her erstwhile political patron, and a cover-up of data showing the true COVID-19 death toll among nursing home residents. Her platform as a statewide leader could also help her outmaneuver other native Brooklynites in the race like New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, who officially filed paperwork Wednesday to create a campaign committee. 

Other Democrats who might get into the race include Mayor Bill de Blasio, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone and Rep. Tom Suozzi of Long Island. Republican Rep. Lee Zeldin of Long Island is the front-runner for his party’s nomination, though he faces a contested primary with several other candidates.