The 2022 Democratic primary for governor is looking increasingly one sided as Gov. Kathy Hochul continues leveraging the powers of incumbency against her political rivals.
The unexpected incumbent has had big polling leads in recent months and is reporting a record fundraising haul of $21.6 million for the June primary. That is several times more than what New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams and Rep. Tom Suozzi of Long Island have available to spend on their own campaigns. Hochul also has an overwhelming advantage in endorsements from influential Democrats across the state. State Attorney General Letitia James dropped out of the race on Dec. 9 and other potential candidates like former New York City Bill de Blasio have decided against entering the race.
About six months remain until the June primary so there is plenty of time for more twists and turns. Yet, money, endorsements and polling continues to go Hochul’s way as other prospective candidates like Mayor Bill de Blasio consider jumping into the race.
Here is a list of who is running, who is not, and who is still keeping political watchers in suspense as of Jan. 18.
Gov. Kathy Hochul
The unexpected governor announced her campaign for a full term in office even before she officially replaced disgraced ex-Gov. Andrew Cuomo in August. She has had significant success since then inheriting much of the political network that helped him win four statewide races – especially when it comes to rallying prominent Black leaders and deep-pocketed donors to her cause. Recent polling suggests that she is the person to beat at this point, but a lot can change in the upcoming months despite her ongoing success with fundraising.
New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams
Jumaane 2022 became official, official in mid-November when the longtime Brooklyn powerbroker released a video highlighting his experience as an activist-minded elected official in the New York City Council and, later, as public advocate. Now he faces Hochul – who he unsuccessfully challenged in the 2018 Democratic primary for lieutenant governor – once again, but at least he does not have to worry anymore about having to defend his hometown turf against another native Brooklynite like James.
Rep. Thomas Suozzi
The Long Island member of Congress told reporters at his campaign announcement that “competence” and “ideology” differentiate him from other candidates in the race. A recent victory on the state and local tax deduction, and his willingness to stand up to the purported dangers of Western New York socialism could give him an in with primary voters, but only time will tell whether he can build a broad enough coalition to win in June.
Legislative staffer Paul Nichols
New York is a democracy and the 2022 Democratic Party primary ain’t over until the fat lady sings, right? So count the chief counsel for state Sen. Leroy Comrie of Queens as a candidate in the race. His website outlines the “5 Smooth Stones” of his candidacy. This includes a call for big rent reductions and “incentivizing more New Yorkers to move to different parts of the state to ease the concentration of population downstate.” A lack of name recognition as a relatively obscure legislative staffer means he will have to work hard to ever be considered a serious contender.
State Sen. Alessandra Biaggi
Few people appeared to get under the skin of Team Cuomo quite like the two-term progressive. The Bronx legislator openly floated the idea of challenging Cuomo in a primary, but his resignation takes some of the oomph out of a potential run. A crowded primary might not be worth the effort compared to a quixotic challenge to the longtime bête noire of the left. That appears to be one reason why she is eying other opportunities like potential runs for state attorney general or lieutenant governor. Biaggi did not respond to a request for comment on Jan. 18 about her future plans.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio
The outgoing mayor had filed paperwork that basically said that he was going to run for governor, but did not end up running in the end. Recent polling has shown that he still retains a base of support among the Black voters in particular that could help in any future runs for public office. De Blasio said he will not keep us in suspense much longer about his future plans. “I am going to devote every fiber of my being to fight inequality in the state of New York,” he said in an online video released Jan. 18. “I'm going to share some more news with you in the days ahead.”
Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone
“The last of the New York centrists” had a not-so-secret ambition to become the first county executive elected governor. His brand of moderate politics might’ve given him a chance in a crowded primary this year where a plurality may be enough to win. Alas! Bellone 2022 is not to be, but who knows what the future might hold for the term-limited county leader who will be in need of a new gig after 2023.
State Attorney General Letitia James
Her political star has risen a lot over the past year thanks to her bombshell reports on Gov. Andrew Cuomo. That inspired months of suspense about how she might waltz into the Democratic nomination for governor next year. Alas, Hochul ended up being more competitive than many people might have expected, and James decided by Dec. 9 to suspend her campaign.
Yonkers Mayor Mike Spano
The mayor of New York’s third-largest city doesn’t have much of a statewide profile, but that did not stop him from considering a run for governor. His early December endorsement of Hochul for governor, however, shows that a long-shot bid of his own ain’t gonna happen.
State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli
Is he the most exciting elected official? Umm, no. But the Long Island Democrat has won three elections since he replaced his felonious predecessor in 2007. That might’ve made him a competitive candidate in an open 2022 primary for governor, but it is not to be. DiNapoli made it clear to City & State in early November that he is running for reelection for sure.
Westchester County Executive George Latimer
The Westchester County executive has helped make Westchester increasingly blue in recent years. That has led at least one vocal supporter to make the case that the former state senator should be included in discussions of who might get in the race, though the “Lawn Ranger” told City & State in mid-November that he would not run after all.
Former Gov. Andrew Cuomo
The fallen master of Albany has been in exile on Long Island since fleeing the state Capitol weeks ago, but he has hardly disappeared. His remaining supporters are still attacking the investigation that led to his downfall, and he is apparently intent on avenging himself. That might include using his remaining war chest – which is still accepting donations – to wage a final battle for political redemption. While Cuomo supposedly has no interest in running for office next year, his remaining money and name recognition could still make him a competitive candidate if he changes his mind.
U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand
New York’s junior senator has ambitions beyond Congress – after all, she ran for president. She wants to build on her brief and unremarkable run and campaign for president again, she told Politico New York in July. But she reiterated to Gannett papers in October that, in spite of Cuomo’s resignation, she has no interest in running for governor.
Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie
The Bronx powerbroker told a Syracuse reporter over the summer that he is “absolutely not” interested in entering the race.
– With reporting by Jeff Coltin and Kim Corona
Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated who Yonkers Mayor Mike Spano had endorsed in the 2022 Democratic primary for governor.