Rep. Tom Suozzi unofficially got his first endorsement for governor on Wednesday as he announced his running mate. Breaking with a tradition of geographic diversity, Suozzi tapped Diana Reyna, a former New York City Council member from Brooklyn, as his pick for lieutenant governor. Though he chose another downstater, Suozzi still made good on his commitment to run with a woman of color.
The pair stood side by side on a basketball court in Williamsburg, flanked by supporters, where Reyna described her first encounter with Suozzi almost 20 years ago during his first statewide run on a platform of cleaning up corruption in state government. “When I heard he was running for governor, I wanted in,” Reyna said. “I wanted to be part of that campaign, to shake things up and get something done in Albany.
Reyna served on the City Council representing parts of Williamsburg and Bushwick between 2001 and 2013. After she left office, she went to work for then-Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams for four years, where she made history as the first Latina deputy borough president. Reyna could make history again should her campaign for lieutenant governor – which has a primary unconnected to the gubernatorial candidates – be successful.
While most expected Suozzi, a five-year member of Congress running to the right of Gov. Kathy Hochul, to pick a New York City running mate, the choice remains a risky one. Although he balances his ticket on gender and racial diversity, he stands to alienate upstate voters he needs to win by staying below Westchester. This is especially true given Gov. Kathy Hochul’s Western New York roots and ties to upstate communities.
The geographic diversity has characterized almost every race for the Executive Mansion, both successful and unsuccessful ones. Hochul picked former state Sen. Brian Benjamin of Manhattan to even out her ticket. Former Gov. Andrew Cuomo has tapped both Hochul and Rochester native Robert Duffy to balance his Queens act. Eliot Spitzer broke decades of tradition when he asked David Paterson to run with him. Before that, the last downstate-exclusive ticket – which featured Paterson’s father Basil – was in 1970, and it didn’t win.
Despite the history, Suozzi expressed confidence that he and Reyna will beat the odds. “I feel very strongly that Diana is the right person that will appeal statewide,” Suozzi said. “I think together we appeal to everyone in the entire state of New York, and our balance represents the balance of the people of the state of New York.” Suozzi added that he and Reyna will first try to capitalize on her ties in Brooklyn – a county with incredible sway in statewide elections – but said that he’s already getting “a very positive reception.”
The announcement also came a day before the state Democratic Party’s nominating convention where the party is expected to officially designate Hochul as the nominee. Suozzi said that he would not try to contest the convention results and plans to petition his way onto the ballot.
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified where Eliot Spitzer is from. He is from New York City.