In her first public comments since The New York Times reported on a meeting between herself and former Rep. Tom Suozzi on his political future, Gov. Kathy Hochul implied that she would have blocked his nomination for the upcoming special election in the 3rd Congressional District if the meeting went poorly.
Speaking to reporters at an unrelated press conference Wednesday, Hochul offered her thoughts on the meeting, general details of which both her campaign and Suozzi had previously confirmed to the Times. “I wanted to have an opportunity to talk to him directly about what his plan was, how he would run his race,” Hochul said, adding that her primary responsibility as the leader of the Democratic Party in New York is to win back the House and make Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries the speaker. She said she wanted to discuss polling and Suozzi’s odds of success “because we had to put forward the strongest candidate in that district.”
Suozzi’s nomination for the special election was seen almost as a foregone conclusion as soon as the House expelled now-former Rep. George Santos. Two candidates had already dropped out to support him, he is a longtime friend of state and Nassau County Democratic Party Chair Jay Jacobs. And Jeffries has pushed for him behind the scenes, according to Long Island Democratic insiders.
But Hochul on Wednesday implied she may have tried to block Suozzi, who ran against her in the 2022 Democratic primary for governor and lobbed both personal and professional attacks at her, if the meeting didn’t go well. “It was an important conversation to clear the air in one respect,” Hochul said. “So it was in his interest to make sure that conversation went well.” It remains unclear whether she could have or would have blocked Suozzi given his ties to both Jeffries and Jacobs.
According to the Times, Suozzi promised Hochul he would campaign as a staunch supporter of abortion rights and not to disparage the party during his race. The governor also confirmed that Suozzi apologized to her for his rhetoric during last year’s gubernatorial race. “There were other candidates to consider, everyone knew that I could look at a variety of candidates,” Hochul said when asked what would have happened had the conversation gone poorly.
Hochul did not offer explicit praise for Suozzi at any point during her comments on Wednesday, but implied that he offered the best chance for Democrats to win back the seat. Her muted language echoes the statement her campaign gave to the Times, stating that she “would allow the nomination to move forward,” but not explicitly offering her blessing. It remains unclear what direct role Hochul, who is unpopular on Long Island, may play in the upcoming special election, nor whether she will stump for Suozzi on the campaign trail. That election is set for Feb. 13.