The State of Play Regarding New York State’s 2022 Gubernatorial Race

In a post-Cuomo landscape, who will be New York’s next governor?


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Getting out the vote will be important for all of these candidates; New York has historically low voter turnout, with only 42% of eligible voters casting ballots in 2018.

In the wake of Andrew Cuomo’s resignation, eyes are beginning to turn to New York State’s 2022 Gubernatorial race. The three term former governor has left a hole in the state’s political landscape, and local politicians from both sides of the aisle are chomping at the bit to replace him. Interim governor Kathy Hochul leads the polling so far, already enjoying the boost from incumbency less than two months into her term. Money does not seem to be a concern to Hochul; ahead of her last race for the far smaller post of lieutenant governor, she raised over $4 million, putting her at an advantage over the rest of the field. In her first few months, between managing crises from extreme weather to the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic, Hochul has extended the eviction moratorium and secured rent relief for New Yorkers, as well as enforced mask and vaccine mandates across the state. 

Who Hochul will be running against is not yet finalized. Other statewide and local officials have expressed interest in running, but only Hochul and Attorney General Letitia James have officially thrown their hats into the ring. James has built a reputation during her time as Attorney General as someone who will fight for vulnerable New Yorkers, and she has been endorsed by the Working Families Party, a third party that typically supports candidates with progressive values. She has strong ties to New York City, but Hochul’s strength upstate is not to be ignored. State Senator Alessandra Biaggi, Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, and New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio have all publicly expressed interest in running for governor. It is unclear if any will be able to successfully win in a primary against Hochul. The first upstate governor in years, she may appeal to more conservative voters who feel alienated by Biaggi or Williams, both progressives. Hochul has also secured endorsements from the NAACP president and from EMILY’s List. In a poll by Marist College supposing a match-up between Hochul, Williams, and James, Hochul was found to take 44% of the vote, signifying a strong lead.

To those of us in the reliably blue bubble of New York City, especially those who followed the 2021 mayoral race closely, we may think this is it for the race, and that paying attention to the Republican side is pointless. But much of upstate New York is Republican country, and more Republicans than Democrats have officially announced their candidacy. The presumed Republican nominee is Lee Zeldin, Suffolk county’s House Representative. He is running on a hard-right platform, flaunting his votes in support of former President Trump, both to overturn the election and against impeachment. Also running are Rob Astorino, Cuomo’s 2014 challenger, and Andrew Giuliani, son of former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani. Stressing connections to former President Trump is a theme throughout the Republican field, with Giuliani and Zeldin both leaning into their past support of Trump.

Despite being out of sight in this race, former Governor Andrew Cuomo is certainly not out of mind. Across the field, the only consistency is that nearly everyone running — excluding Hochul — has butted up against the former governor at some point or another. Biaggi and Williams were both outspoken critics of the face of their party, James wrote the report that led to his resignation, and Zeldin and Giuliani launched their campaigns on anti-Cuomo messages. Additionally, DeBlasio and Cuomo had a well-publicized feud. For a state party that was once so controlled by Cuomo, the field is packed with people who are certainly not seeking his endorsement. Many Democrats may emphasize their role in taking Cuomo down, but both Zeldin and Giuliani launched their campaigns long before Cuomo’s resignation. Having a widely disliked Democrat out of the office may weaken their already weak grip on a state that Joe Biden won 62-38 in the November 2020 Presidential election. At the end of his term, Cuomo’s approval rating was at 38%, a dismal showing for a man once revered in the Democratic party. 

The former Governor is known for being brash…Since his departure, there is now a feeling of transparency and perhaps even better cooperation between elected officials in Albany. I’m not saying that his departure will fix everything in Albany; however, at least now there is a chance to head in a new direction toward transparency and accountability,” said City Council Member Ben Kallos, in an e-mail to me, after I wrote to him for comment. The anti-Cuomo messaging that likely would have flooded the race had the former Governor remained in office won’t be as effective now, and as Cuomo’s lieutenant governor, Hochul stands to gain the most. Polling currently supports this assertion, but it is still very early in the race, and tides have changed much more quickly in the past.

“Since [Cuomo’s] departure, there is now a feeling of transparency and perhaps even better cooperation between elected officials in Albany,” said City Council Member Ben Kallos.