Hochul in the middle: the governor looks left and right while charting the course for the 2022 elections

With the governor’s primary and the upcoming legislative session running on parallel tracks, progressives and moderates will work to derail Governor Kathy Hochul as she navigates an expected barrage of leftist bills.

A recent poll has Hochul, a Buffalo native elevated to governor after Andrew Cuomo resigned in disgrace in August, leading the Democratic pack, with the support of 31% of likely voters in the 2022 race across the board. of State.

While New York Attorney General Letitia James unexpectedly dropped out of the race, public attorney Jumaane Williams, a Brooklyn-based progressive, is now Hochul’s closest contender and polls 10%. Progressive former Brooklyn Mayor Bill de Blasio and moderate Long Island and Eastern Queens Rep. Tom Suozzi both sit at 6%.

While all of the challengers are or were elected officials, virtually any move by Hochul during the legislative session that begins in January could draw fire from opponents, with each move becoming a partisan litmus test within the party, political analysts said.

“The degree of pressure and scrutiny that the budget is going to be subjected to and all these other social issues and other agendas — the race for governor will be front and center,” said Peter Kauffmann, a political strategist who has worked for years. 2010 and 2014 from Cuomo. campaigns. “One will define the other. We’re going to see the issues of a gubernatorial race play out in real time with real politics and real legislation next year.

And while Hochul, who is set to deliver her first ‘state of the state’ address on Wednesday, will be forced to take a stand on the outstanding issues, her opponents can pick their spots – and also push her towards the left or the right.

Williams has in the past encouraged Albany executives to support an anti-eviction bill ‘for a good cause’ that would limit rent hikes and guarantee lease renewals, while Hochul declined to take a position on the measure. . Suozzi said he believed the enactment of the Climate and Community Investment Act, which would raise billions by taxing greenhouse gas-emitting activities, was a mistake, while Hochul y was open.

“The idea of ​​having higher taxes just in New York, where it makes NY less attractive that people won’t want to come here, or people won’t bring businesses here, is something we have to guard ourselves,” Suozzi said on Capitol Pressroom last month. “We’ve gone too far in New York.”

Liberal legislation awaits

A similar dynamic unfolded in the 2018 gubernatorial race when actress-turned-activist Cynthia Nixon challenged Cuomo and pledged to legalize recreational marijuana and prioritized fixing the subway system. .

Cuomo, who previously opposed legalizing pot, began shifting his stance on both issues as the primary continued: passing a state report that supported legalization and endorsing pot pricing. congestion to direct more funds to the metro system.

The pandemic slowed the 2020 legislative session and Cuomo’s scandals stalled the 2021 session. Today, advocates and lawmakers in the increasingly progressive, Democratic-controlled Legislature are eager to move forward a multitude of bills, ranging from housing protection to free college.

State Sen. Gustavo Rivera (D-The Bronx) predicted that advocates and some lawmakers will fight to ensure his single-payer health care bill will be “a flashpoint” on the campaign trail.

Governor Kathy Hochul has her work cut out for her.
Ben Fractenberg/THE CITY

“[We’ll] put this to all gubernatorial candidates, including the incumbent. And I will certainly argue that it’s absolutely critical for them to have a public stance on this, because I think it’s important to make sure every New Yorker has health care,” Rivera said. . “And we will continue to work to make sure the general public, as they decide who to support, takes that into account.”

State Sen. Andrew Gounardes (D-Brooklyn) is preparing to rally supporters Dec. 11 to rekindle support for a bill he has proposed that would make City University of New York free for all students. He said the upcoming budget will be the biggest signal of how far Hochul might be willing to go.

“She was very public in her comments about reversing trends that were reciprocated by her predecessor and changing some of the ways we have divested from some of our public institutions, whether it’s public agencies, public universities or public hospitals,” says Gounardès.

“The jury is still out on how she’s going to manifest that vision in terms of a guiding document in a budget, but I think she says all the right things,” he added.

Meanwhile, de Blasio, as a potential candidate, floated a big (and expensive) idea: year-round schooling.

Hochul has already had to make decisions that could put her at odds with defenders or create easy talking points for her candidates on the campaign trail. Since taking office in August, the governor has vetoed a bill that would have created a public advocate for consumers who have trouble with utilities. She is also urged to increase housing subsidies for New York’s lowest-income families.

Balancing law

Hochul took her political journey one election at a time, tossing between more conservative and more liberal positions in upstate races depending on the contest, always focusing on a moderate Democrat.

Running for Erie County Clerk in 2007, she was in the rare position of running on both the Conservative Party and Working Families Party voting lines, as well as the Democratic line.

But to win in this race, she also grabbed a position more typically associated with the Republican Party. Already occupying the county clerk’s office by appointment, she then fought the governor. Eliot Spitzer’s proposal to issue driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants and teamed up with another upstate clerk to formulate a plan to stop undocumented immigrants who applied.

Then-Governor.  Andrew Cuomo with Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul during a press briefing in Buffalo.

Hochul has distanced himself from his former boss.
Courtesy of Office of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo/ Darren McGee

In 2011, she became a member of Congress by defeating a Republican in a conservative district, campaigning against a private market voucher option for Medicare.

As governor, she also tried to find common ground on high-profile projects, such as scaling back Cuomo’s plan to build super-tall towers around Penn Station, which had drawn opposition from the community.

In September, Hochul approved the construction of new power lines along the Hudson River to bring more renewable energy to New York and halted plans to build gas-fired power plants in Queens. But its environmental conservation department has delayed making a final decision on whether or not to allow National Grid to expand its Greenpoint gas transmission facility.

Since becoming governor, Hochul said her stance had “evolved” on undocumented immigrants and, with de Blasio, created a $27 million disaster relief fund.

George Arzt, a longtime New York-based political consultant, said the balancing act has been successful so far.

“His performance was praised by many. She is definitely considered energetic. You see it everywhere in every part of the state,” Arzt said. “I think most people view Hochul as a moderate Democrat.”

Hochul’s campaign also reported raising $10 million since filing to run for a full term and has $11.1 million in its campaign budget.

“The first test will be the January 15 filing, but I think Hochul has a real advantage at this point,” Artz said.

A test of his success: Representative Lee Zeldin, who focused on taking hits on both Hochul and James, redirected his firepower to Williams – saying last month after James dropped out that the public advocate has the best chance of winning the June Democratic primary because of his “far-left credentials.”

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