Publisher’s Corner: Expect a crowded Democratic primary for governor next year

September 25, 2021 – Flushing – Governor Kathy Hochul highlights New York’s comeback and urges New Yorkers to get vaccinated at the Governors Ball Music Festival at Citi Field Saturday September 25, 2021. Photon by Kevin P. Coughlin, Office of the Governor.

Well, there is quite a bit of time to go before the 2022 gubernatorial primary election and a lot of potential for some major, tough competition. Here’s how I would score it now.

Kathy Hochul: As the incumbent, Hochul obviously has the lead. That’s because some people are looking for post-Cuomo, calm continuity. She also has an advantage due to Andrew Cuomo’s attacks on her would-be opponent, Letitia James, the New York Attorney General who brought him down.

Hochul has not been particularly kind to Cuomo but for some reason, lately he has been leaving her alone. Maybe that’s because he is already counting Hochul out of the competition. Maybe Cuomo is looking for a comeback opportunity and he’d rather take on Hochul when he makes his move than James, who he sees as the one who brought him down.

It is interesting that the conservative community, including some Republicans like Al D’Amato, seem to be lining up behind the new governor. The New York Times has done an excellent job of covering Hochul’s conservative backers who include the same old, same old folks who are anything but liberals. In fact, quite the contrary.

Hochul has been competently doing her job so far but she’ll have to contend with some serious hurdles, like the handling of the terrible situation at the Riker’s Island jail in New York. The state’s frightening murder statistics will also be her problem.

She has an advantage as a woman candidate following the Supreme Court’s miserable abortion decision, but she will still have to contend with James, a brilliant speaker, who has the added advantage of being Black.

As for the aforementioned Letitia James, she looks awfully strong to me. She has distinguished herself as New York Attorney General and she has come out of her corner to respond to Cuomo’s recent attacks on her. I suspect the Black community will solidly support her. Cuomo’s enmity might cost her, but if she plays her cards right, his attacks may actually help her. While Hochul is a competent speaker, James is an excellent speaker. Her commercials will clearly show all of her effective actions as AG. We don’t know if she can raise the money necessary to carry the day, but she is pretty resourceful. No one should count her out.

Then there is the improbable candidacy of Andrew Cuomo, himself. Rather than jump in early and scare the hell out of everyone, possibly bringing the law down on himself, I suspect that he will let everyone beat each other’s brains out and then ride in late in the game.

Let’s remember that this will be a crowded primary and Andrew, a well-known politician who still has a lot of followers, could take home the prize. He has the most chutzpah and running again would be a typical move. In recent days, he has become more and more vocal and that’s a tipoff that a candidacy is not beyond the realm of possibility. He has a huge campaign war chest. When asked about the charges against him, he suggests that “…it’s all politics,” whatever that means. If you put yourself into his head, you can pretty much bet that he’s thinking a lot about this. We need to keep an eye on what he or his spokesman, Rich Azzopardi, says in coming weeks. He is obviously starting his comeback attempt now.

Of course, there may be others in the running, including the brilliant and effective state comptroller, Tom DiNapoli who just might enter the race. I suspect that if he thinks he has a shot, he will get into the pool. I certainly hope he doesn’t because he is far too good for all of this. He might not win and that would cost New Yorkers a great comptroller.

So put your money on the table and make your bets.