HARD TO PREDICT WHAT WILL HAPPEN
So, who will contest among Democrats for the 2022 gubernatorial nomination?
Of course, you have Kathy Hochul, the lucky winner of the 2021 prize for being in the right place at the right time. We all know that’s the case. She was the lieutenant governor that Andrew Cuomo didn’t want. We know that Cuomo asked her to step aside and that she refused, saying that if he named someone else, she would enter a Democratic primary for lieutenant governor. Cuomo gave in and Hochul ran and became the lieutenant governor. It certainly looked like she had no hope of upward ascendency, but you can never really tell what the positioning of the sun and the moon will mean. Then Andrew got himself into a lot of trouble. Obviously, he was not going to give Hochul a meaningful role since she had defied his request to step aside and we all know that it is quite dangerous to defy Cuomo with the result that it looked like Hochul would be cutting a lot of ribbons around New York State. That she did and that might have been a real piece of good luck because as it turned out, the last thing Hochul needed was a close working relationship with Cuomo. Had that been the case, people would hold her responsible. So, she lucked out.
At her first speech, Hochul announced that she would indeed serve out the remaining time on the gubernatorial clock and then she would run for a full term. This makes her the first woman governor in the history of New York. Her problem is that she comes from Niagara County, the second most populated area in the state. I have often suggested that written in invisible ink in the behemoth New York State Constitution is the requirement that you have to come from one of the five boroughs of New York City, or close by, to be elected governor. But she is a woman and the appeal of at last having a woman serve as governor of New York can’t be denied.
On the other hand, the person who did the most to eliminated Cuomo from the governorship is Attorney General Letitia James. It was she who commissioned the report that did him in and led to his resignation. James has demonstrated the necessary ambition and ability that brought her to the Attorney General’s post. Yes, there are some who say that she is not ambitious enough, but I say, “Does a bear walk in the woods?” If you work your way up to the second most important position in New York, there’s no reason why you wouldn’t seek the number one spot. But, of course, things didn’t work out and her would-be contestant for power is the new governor.
James is Black and that counts for a lot in New York State, where, if elected governor, she would not only be the first woman but the first Black woman elected governor. We will have to see how Hochul acquits herself as governor in her first year. Her initial speech was, at best, lackluster. She said the right stuff but lacked passion. She clearly did not want to tick off the Cuomo supporters and made several points to that end. Nonetheless, she made it clear that she had real issues with Cuomo and his administration. The Cuomo lovers who keep writing me letters will not forget what they consider her perfidy. The same goes for James, whose report did Cuomo in. Should the two women primary each other, some of the women’s vote will be divided. Clearly there will be a primary and others will be in it in addition to James and Hochul. It’s hard to predict what will happen but being governor is a major political goal for a lot of ambitious people who could take lessons from Andrew. He will certainly be taking some shots from the sidelines. You can bet on that.
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].