Progressives Position To Challenge Hochul In Democratic Primary

As Gov. Kathy Hochul continues to settle into her new position, two prominent elected officials have taken steps in the direction of challenging her in a Democratic gubernatorial primary next year.

On September 29, 2021, New York Attorney General Letitia James made a speech that, according to City & State New York, appeared to lay the groundwork for a gubernatorial bid. In her remarks, the Attorney General discussed “how to improve governance at the state level” and “touted her track record of ‘standing up for those who have been attacked, disenfranchised, marginalized (and) left out.’” James noted that she had “‘fought for the rights of New Yorkers, regardless of immigration status, to ensure all people living in the state have access to driver’s licenses’”; this comment could be perceived as a criticism of Gov. Hochul, who once was a vocal opponent of driver licenses for undocumented immigrants. The Albany Times Union has reported that James’s associates have been making phone calls to ascertain the level of support for a possible campaign for governor.

On September 28, 2021, New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams announced that he had formed an exploratory committee in anticipation of a possible campaign for governor of New York. Williams, a former member of the New York City Council, describes himself as an “activist elected official” and a member of the Democratic Socialists of America; he is known for his gun control advocacy. In 2018, Williams ran for lieutenant governor against Hochul, but was defeated by a 6.6% margin in the Democratic primary. He has indicated that he will make a decision about a gubernatorial bid within the next month.

While Jumaane Williams would have an outside chance at defeating Kathy Hochul in a gubernatorial primary, Letitia James—who currently holds statewide office, and who authored the report that led to Andrew Cuomo’s departure from office—would be able to mount a stronger challenge. However, if both Williams and James run for governor, they might siphon votes away from each other, giving Hochul a better chance of winning than she might have if she faced either of them in a one-on-one matchup.