The 2022 New York State gubernatorial election is less than a year away and the field of Democratic candidates vying for the nomination is already a crowded field.

Attorney General Letitia James, Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, Gov. Kathy Hochul and, as of this week, Mayor Bill de Blasio are all throwing their hats in the race for the June 2022 primary. The diverse field consists of three out of the four candidates not only hailing from the city but products of the Brooklyn political machine while one has upstate strong ties.

James formally announced last Friday that she’s running for governor. Her political route consists of being a Brooklyn city councilmember to public advocate to state attorney general. Her recent claim to fame was releasing the report that found that former New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo engaged in multiple acts of sexual harassment with women leading to his resignation in August.

She’s also been making her way around the state with her “HealNY” statewide tour delivering $1.5 billion in funds to combat the opioid crisis. The tour has given her the opportunity to make a name for herself Upstate. James has filed dozens of lawsuits against former U.S. President and New York native Donald Trump. 

If James wins, she’ll make history again in her political career becoming the first Black woman elected New York State governor and the first Black woman elected governor in America.

“As I’ve traveled all around New York state, I have witnessed too many working families struggling to make ends meet, and it’s clear that the status quo just won’t do,” said James. “New Yorkers need a governor who isn’t afraid to stand up to powerful interests on behalf of the vulnerable. Throughout my career, I’ve taken on big forces and New Yorkers know I will never back down when it comes to fighting for them.”

Public Advocate Jumaane Williams just won reelection as New York City’s public advocate on Tuesday, however he has his sights on Albany. Last week, he reportedly filed paperwork to enter the gubernatorial race. In September, it was reported that he launched an exploratory committee. 

Williams’ journey started as a Brooklyn city councilmember to take James’ place as public advocate after her election to attorney general. In 2018, he challenged Hochul for lieutenant governor, getting over 46% of the vote behind Hochul’s 53%.

“Three years ago when I was exploring a statewide run, I saw enthusiasm all across New York— and heard about shared struggles,” Williams said on social media. “Now I’m hearing many of the same struggles, because the same systems are in place. We’re still here fighting, and I’m seeing the same enthusiasm for change.”

On the sunset of his mayoral career, news broke Tuesday that de Blasio filed paperwork with the Board of Elections to create a fundraising committee under the New Yorkers for a Fair Future. While he has not officially announced a gubernatorial run, de Blasio was asked about the filing during a televised interview on Tuesday. He said he wants to fix the state’s shortcomings in Albany that he believes are on full display. 

“I want to continue in public service and there’s a lot that needs to be fixed in Albany,” he said. “There’s a lot that needs to be changed in the State of New York. I think anybody who’s watching, and even from around the country over these last years, has seen dysfunction in our State Capitol, has seen scandal. This State has fallen behind in some ways that we really must address.”

In an interview with the AmNews, Basil Smikle, who serves as director of Hunter College’s Public Policy Program, said that if James, Williams and de Blasio do run it would give Hochul an advantage being that the three are from downstate. 

“They would divide the vote in an area that is known to turn out strongly for statewide candidates in the primary,” Smikle said. “Kathy would be, in some ways, looking forward to more candidates from the city jumping into the race. The demographics of the city have changed dramatically since the last census, and since 2013, we’ve had a majority minority electorate. Not only does that suggest that you have more candidates of color, or African American candidates running for office, but the chances that they would win are that much stronger in a statewide race.”

Smikle added that in order for candidates to get the Black vote, they have to hone in on key issues such as criminal justice reform, quality of life, and disparities that the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated, particularly in education and income. He also said closing Rikers Island is important. 

“I think African American voters are looking at a lot of these issues that have been bubbling up to the surface for a long time but have already been championed by Jumaane and Tish,” Smikle said.

So what are voters thinking? According to a Siena College poll released last month, Hochul is leading, even if Cuomo were to enter the race. 

In one potential five-way primary, Hochul leads with 31% followed by Cuomo at 17%, James at 14%, Williams at 7%, and de Blasio at 6%. With Cuomo excluded, Hochul was at 39%, James 20%, de Blasio 10%, and Williams 8%.

“Predicting June’s Democratic gubernatorial ballot 36 weeks from primary day, four months before a state party convention with only Hochul declared is not for the faint hearted,” said Siena College pollster Steven Greenberg. “That said, Siena presented Democrats with three potential primary matchups and in each case, Hochul leads by double digits. But let’s repeat, we are 36 weeks away with an unknown field, and most potential candidates being, like Hochul, largely unknown to a wide swath of voters.” 

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