James drops out of gubernatorial primary, to focus on re-election as attorney general

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James drops out of gubernatorial primary, to focus on re-election as attorney general
Attorney General Letitia James announced her withdrawal from the gubernatorial last week. (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

State Attorney General Letitia James announced on Thursday that she was dropping out of the race  for governor, tightening the contest for the Democratic nomination. 

James, a Democrat who announced her candidacy for governor in October, said in a statement she is focused on continuing her work as attorney general. James made headlines this year with her office conducting the investigation into sexual harassment allegations against former Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

“I have come to the conclusion that I must continue my work as attorney general,” James said. “There are a number of important investigations and cases that are underway, and I intend to finish the job.”

Jay Jacobs, chairman of the Nassau County and New York state Democratic committees, praised her action. 

“I supported Tish James in her quest to become Attorney General in 2018 because I saw in her something unique for someone in political life – she genuinely put the Democratic Party over her own interests and had a deep and genuine concern for what was best for the people of our state,” Jacobs said. “She has demonstrated that, once again, with her decision today. She united Democrats for the sake of the Party, which she again put over her own interests.”

With James pulling out of the race, the three Democratic officials who remain in the running are Gov. Kathy Hochul, U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove) and New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams.

Craig Burnett, an associate political science professor at Hofstra University, said Suozzi’s experience in local government on Long Island should help him, though Hochul, he believes, is the favorite.

“He’s got a very local brand name and has been in politics for quite a while, so Suozzi is a name that I think probably most people around here would know,” Burnett said in a phone interview. “Long Island is a pretty good place to launch your political career. If I had to pick though, I think Kathy Hochul will be most likely to get out of the primary.”

Suozzi, a self-identified “common sense Democrat,” announced he would run for governor in late November. The congressman and former Nassau County executive said reducing crime and property taxes throughout the state along with protecting the environment and combating climate change are some of his top priorities.

He also served as Glen Cove’s mayor for four terms, beginning in 1994. In 2006, Suozzi lost the Democratic nomination for governor to former Attorney General Eliot Spitzer. Suozzi cited his ability to work with other elected officials regardless of political affiliation. 

​​”I believe that the answer to New York’s problems will not be solved by moving radically to the left or to the right,” Suozzi said. “We need to move forward. I will work with anyone to solve problems on behalf of the people I serve, as I always have.”

Hochul, who was first elected as lieutenant governor in 2014, became the state’s first female governor in August after Cuomo stepped down from the position amid a flurry of sexual harassment allegations and bipartisan calls for him to resign.

When she first took over for Cuomo, Hochul’s main priority was getting New Yorkers vaccinated quickly and effectively and keeping students in school safely. Now, months later, Hochul has referred back to her August goals with rising coronavirus cases and growing concerns about the omicron variant.

Burnett said a majority of residents in New York have been pleased with the work she has done since taking over for Cuomo and she has the best chance to not only win the Democratic primary, but to be elected as governor next year.

“It seems like the things she has done as governor, people have been pretty happy with,” Burnett said. “It looks like she has several key players in Democratic politics working with her and thinking she has a very reasonable chance to be the next full-time governor.”

Williams, who Burnett said could be classified as the most “progressive” candidate in the current Democratic field, has been a longstanding advocate and activist in a variety of roles in  New York City. Despite losing to Hochul in the 2018 election for lieutenant governor, Williams was elected as public advocate of New York City, helping pass legislation to protect New York’s workforce and those searching for work, promote public safety and fight discrimination.

Williams, who was also diagnosed with Tourette syndrome, announced he would run for governor in mid-November, touting his ability to bring about change in the community and move forward from the coronavirus pandemic.

“Without new, courageous, progressive leadership creating change, the way things have always been will stand in the way of what they can be,” Williams said in a statement.

Burnett said he is unsure of how Williams’ candidacy will play out running on the activist platform, but his prominence in New York City could give him a fighting chance.

“Voters will know him to some extent and I think he’s very likely the most liberal of the candidates we’re talking about now,” Burnett said. “I don’t exactly know how his candidacy plays out in this race, though.”

With others such as Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio rumored to look into running for governor as well, the Democratic primary could get even more contentious in the coming months.

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