Looks like 2022 is going to be another hectic year in politics. Lining up in the tunnel to run onto this political football field are perhaps a dozen possible candidates for governor and lieutenant governor. On Tuesday, Aug. 24, Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul is set to become New York’s first woman governor; she has already proclaimed her intention to run for a full term next year.
So two spots are about to be left open after current Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s dramatic resignation two weeks ago, which came after Attorney General Letitia James’ 168 page report supported the credible sexual harassment testimony of 11 women; the calls for an investigation into the nursing home deaths; Cuomo’s $5 million pandemic book deal; and the charges that his family and associates had expedited access to testing last year.
’Tis about to be a chessboard, or checkers.
Names from both sides of the aisle doing the informal rounds of possible 2022 gubernatorial candidates include: A.G James, Hochul herself, State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, NYC Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, former NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg, Sen. Hillary Clinton, current NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, and Andrew Giuliani.
Attorney General James just held a Spike Lee-headlined re-election fundraiser at Martha’s Vineyard, plus fundraisers in Long Island and Manhattan. According to a spokesperson, “Attorney General James is fully focused on her work right now as she continues her legal actions against the NRA, former President Donald Trump, and countless other big cases.”
One-time 2012 gubernatorial candidate and current Assemblyman Charles Barron thwarted any suggestion that he may enter the race next year. “I will NOT be running for governor,” said the Brooklyn representative, who in fact will be returning to his former seat in the New York City Council in January 2022.
Barron reverted to the original issue stating, “The decision to suspend impeachment proceedings against Governor Cuomo is disturbing and unconscionable. Speaker of the New York State Assembly Carl Heastie and Assembly Judiciary Committee Chair Charles Lavine should be ashamed of their decision. The report Attorney General James produced in regard to the allegations against Governor Cuomo and the investigation done by the Assembly Judiciary Committee into those allegations, illustrate that not only did he violate federal and state law, but he also unequivocally failed the people of New York.”
Governor David Paterson determined that on the upside all this political theater allowed for the possibility for “transparency” in the hiring and function of governance, telling the Amsterdam News, “The state has the opportunity to be included in the process, because aside from the vote, they hadn’t been much involved in a decision-making capacity.”
Paterson was NYS lieutenant governor from 2007 to 2008, and governor from 2008 to 2010 after then governor Elliot Spitzer resigned after being embroiled in a sex scandal all his own.
The former New York State senator continued that Cuomo acted as the “imperial governor—everything revolves around him. If they painted a street sign, they had to let everyone know that the governor did it.
“The governor is supposed to pull everyone together by directing activity,” not be the story, he said.
Asked if he would run himself, the sometimes radio talk show host and author of “Black, Blind, & in Charge: A Story of Visionary Leadership and Overcoming Adversity,” private citizen Paterson laughed, “I’m good. I did enjoy it but I have moved on, and I am enjoying what I am doing. This week, as I tried to keep up with all the press, it reminded me as to why I don’t want to do it.”
He said despite having “conversations with people asking me to do that,” he would only make himself “available to help the new governor and the new mayor as they steer their way through office.”
Paterson said he believed Democratic mayoral candidate Eric Adams will be the next mayor of New York. “Bet your life on it,” said the former Senate minority leader. “There is no doubt in my mind that he will be the next mayor.”
The Amsterdam News asked wryly, what with Curtis Sliwa being the Republican mayoral candidate and with Paterson being married to Mary Galda, Sliwa’s ex wife, was this a bit of a touchy subject in the household?
“That is not a hard conversation to have at all,” he laughed.
As for other gubernatorial possible candidates Paterson noted, “Thomas DiNapoli, can’t count him out. Jumaane Williams, he is very opinionated, and has a tremendous amount of courage, and isn’t afraid to give his thoughtful commentary. He gets along with his colleagues.”
As for the whole shebang he said, “It’s disappointing, but everyone knew what was going on, that there was a toxic atmosphere, the bullying.” Cuomo ensured, he added, “that there would be extra steps to let it be known there would be consequences for going against the grain.”
But he said, “You can’t impeach someone when they are out of office—because the whole purpose is to throw them out.”
Even though Cuomo put in his retirement papers, Paterson noted, “The impeachment is only suspended. It was a polite message to Cuomo, that if you’re thinking of running, we will open that thing again.”
The AmNews asked if Cuomo made his heavily loaded exit speech knowing that a deal had been worked out so long as he resigned.
“It’s Albany. It is quite possible. He knew they had the votes. The entire Democratic conference were against him, and the Republican Conference would have voted him out.
“He is not convicted of anything…although it is certainly possible.”
Deja vu already again for him? the Amsterdam News asked.
“Yes, this was a little like Spitzer. But Spitzer saw the writing on the wall, and got out before it got to that point.”
Barron is determined to highlight a crucial constitutional point: “According to the constitution of New York State, the power to approve and disapprove impeachment is given to the Assembly, not to the speaker of the Assembly and the Judiciary Committee chair alone. Furthermore, the matter was never brought before the Democratic Caucus for discussion,” the Brooklyn assemblyman said. “Speaker Heastie and Chair Lavine have suspended the impeachment proceedings based on their interpretation of Article VI of the New York State Constitution. They cite that the purpose of the impeachment is to remove the governor from office and that his resignation satisfies that part of the directive. Then they cite that they ‘believe’ that the constitution does not authorize the legislature to impeach and remove an elected official who is no longer in office. The governor is still in office and an impeachment is much more than just removing an elected official from office. An impeachment is a formal legal expression that states that the elected official, based on their actions, is no longer fit for office and is disqualified from holding any public office. The constitution does not state clearly that an elected official cannot be impeached after resigning from office. The decision to suspend the impeachment is a grievous mistake because it sets a very dangerous precedent.”
In an interview, Long Island Congressman Tom Suozzi said Cuomo made the right decision to resign because the sexual harassment scandal was distracting. Suozzi added that New Yorkers shouldn’t lose sight of Cuomo’s accomplishments and that all state leaders should work together to move forward.
“It’s important that everybody worked together to beat COVID once and for all,” Suozzi said. “We have to do everything we can to make New York State successful. Too many people have left the state. I’m doing my part in Washington to deliver money to the state to get the state and get local tax deduction back. We need the State of New York to focus on beating COVID and making us successful again.”
Suozzi previously ran for governor in 2006 during the Democratic primary and was defeated by Elliot Spitzer. As far as running for governor again, Suozzi said he doesn’t plan for anything.
“Whenever I kind of just let things happen, it always worked out well,” he said. “So, I’m going to just focus on doing what I can do in Washington to help New York and we’ll see what happens.”
New York State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli has served alongside three governors and went through a similar transition in 2008 when then governor Elliot Spitzer resigned after a sex scandal. DiNapoli is confident that Hochul’s transition will be successful. He said he really didn’t have a close relationship with Cuomo and called for his resignation in March when the sexual harassment allegations against Cuomo surfaced.
“You do have to give him credit for some significant achievements during his tenure,” DiNapoli told the AmNews. “Obviously, in more recent times, he just let things go. I guess he had a sense of he could do no wrong. It’s another lesson that even smart people can do stupid things and it’s unfortunate.”
As far as his own gubernatorial aspirations, DiNapoli said he has a good sense about the state and what it needs. He said he’s honored that his name has floated as a possible candidate for governor in 2022.
“I know when there’s a big reshuffle like this, everybody starts to try to read the tea leaves,” he said. “I think for now we really need to pull together to make sure that the transition with Kathy Hochul is a smooth one because we need the government to function. I tell people let’s all put our political calculators aside for now. There is a big election in 2022. I certainly expect to be on the ballot, one way or the other. I’m hoping whatever the role is, I’ll be able to serve the people of New York State for another four years.”
Public Advocate Jumaane Williams ran for lieutenant governor in 2018, taking New York State from then opponent Hochul, “the party’s choice, by more than 60,000 votes in New York City: 414,000 to 354,000,” said The New York Times.
Asked if he had decided he would run for governor in 2022, he said, “Nothing yet.”
Harlem State Sen. Brian Benjamin is one of the contenders to be appointed as Hochul’s lieutenant governor. Hochul announced she plans to run for governor in 2022 and if selected, Benjamin could be her running mate. The position could be a path to his own run for governor.
“I always keep my options open,” said Benjamin.