Governor Race Very Fluid
Sometimes it seems as if every major league political player wants into the gubernatorial sweepstakes. Clearly, everyone thinks that they have the stuff to get into the upcoming primary. Why do so many people think that the field is open when it appears that most of the establishment is behind Kathy Hochul?
Despite her lead in the polls, I know a lot of members of Congress and other politicians who simply won’t say that they are 100% for Hochul. She may be ahead now but that means little until the primary race goes into high gear. In truth, nothing means anything right now. Witness the incredible win of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez over a popular establishment politician who was so sure of winning that he practically didn’t campaign at all. That lesson was not lost on many political big shots. So why is it that with so many people believing that Hochul has it all sewn up, are so many pols waiting to get into the game?
We really don’t know what makes a political race take off. There is that certain something, a spark, that will make a race into a race. People seem to be looking for something different. Let’s call that “X.” It’s the kind of information that used to start a gold rush. Once it starts, it’s like the westerns where one person comes into town and just whispers, “Gold.” Then the streets empty out and all hell breaks loose. I am betting, for example, that Attorney General Letitia James will take off like a rocket.
In an obvious move to block James’ appeal with Black voters, Hochul has chosen Brian Benjamin, who is Black, as her lieutenant governor and running mate. Since I wrote about this strategy in a previous column, Benjamin has had some political dirt thrown on him. He has tried to get out from under serious political and legal accusations. So Hochul must be re-examining her options on whether to dump Benjamin. At least she hasn’t said that she is “a thousand percent behind him.” See what I mean? This is exactly the kind of thing that can mean everything in an election.
Once upon a time, it looked like Ed Koch would be mayor for life, ditto Robert F. Wagner, but all of that turned around. It just goes to show that early conventional wisdom can be dead wrong. Right now, the so-called “smart money” is on Hochul staying governor. She leads in the often-mistaken polls. Yet there is unease among her backers that is palpable. To put it mildly, her backers are not the people who turn elections around. These are the usual movers and shakers who are often wrong.
I have said before and I say it again, “Keep your eye on Andrew Cuomo.” I suspect that if Cuomo was as politically dead as his enemies want, they would not be attacking him with the kind of fervor that we are seeing. I have been talking with an awful lot of people who keep telling me that his alleged crimes are being “over-punished.” Cuomo will never forgive Letitia James but probably to her own amazement, Hochul has been so far spared by Cuomo. Maybe he’s looking for a pardon from Hochul.
The New York State Assembly under Speaker Heastie seems to be worrying about a Cuomo resurgence. The fact that both houses of the legislature won’t give up on attacking Cuomo, including calls for a retroactive impeachment, tells me that they fear his reactivation. There is an old saying that if you are going to kill the king, you better make sure that he is dead.
To sum it all up, things are still very fluid.
Alan Chartock is professor emeritus at the State University of New York, publisher of the Legislative Gazette and president and CEO of the WAMC Northeast Public Radio Network. Readers can email him at [email protected].