With Gov. Andrew Cuomo's unexpected resignation announcement Tuesday morning, New York's next governor will be Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul — but what will happen in 2022?
That's one of the immediate questions for state Democrats, who were weighing whether to mount a primary challenge to the soon-to-be former governor before Attorney General Letitia James' report on his alleged sexual harassment dropped last week.
Now, it's unclear who will be entering what very well may be a very crowded field. No one has declared their candidacy yet on the Democratic side, but Rep. Lee Zeldin of Long Island and Andrew Giuliani — former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani's son — have mounted campaigns to win the GOP nomination.
Here are some of the potential Democratic contenders heading into next year's primary:
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Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul
Hochul will be the governor in just two weeks' time and will make history as the state's first female governor. The Buffalo native was tapped by Cuomo to be his running mate for his second term in 2014 after losing re-election for her congressional seat. She nearly lost her re-election bid in 2018 to progressive Jumaane Williams.
Ideologically, she's seen as a conservative Democrat and was actually endorsed by the NRA ahead of her 2012 run for Congress.
Hochul hasn't announced a run, but would likely have the backing of the state's Democratic establishment. Sources told CNBC that the state's most influential political donors and business leaders were encouraging her to run after James' report was released last week.
That said, New York's last lieutenant governor to assume the top job didn't fare so well: former Gov. David Patterson launched a bid for a full term in 2010 after taking over for Eliot Spitzer. But low popularity and the urging of state and national Democratic leaders led him to end the bid and clear the way for Cuomo, who was elected that year.
Like Patterson, Hochul's path to the nomination in 2022 will likely hinge on how voters rate her performance over the next 15 months.
Attorney General Letitia James
Now to the woman whose explosive report led us here. James is widely seen as having ambitions for higher office — and after taking on Cuomo, the Trump Organization, the NRA and Purdue Pharma, she has a prosecutorial record that could make her a serious contender.
Case and point: Kings County Democratic Party Chair Rodneyse Bichotte was spreading love with her fellow Brooklynite, telling the Brooklyn Paper that she thought James would run unopposed if she entered the race.
"Anyone who’s interested in potentially running knows that Tish James is a good candidate given that she’s a statewide official and being a woman of color will be kind of historic," she said. "So many different people probably see her as a progressive leader and tough and she’s an attorney."
There's also the fact that the Attorney General's job has been a launching pad for governor in New York of late -- both Cuomo and fellow former Gov. Eliot Spitzer were AGs before moving on to the Executive Mansion.
One more thing: according to an unreleased poll of likely voters conducted by after her report was released last week, James was the No. 2 candidate, with 9 percent saying they'd vote for her if the primary was today. (More on the person who was in the top position next)
No, that's not a typo. Despite stepping down in the next two week, Cuomo could still run for the state's highest office — assuming he's not impeached and convicted by the state legislature. He's got an $18 million war chest for what was supposed to be a bid for a record-beating fourth term in the Executive Mansion.
He's also got 26 percent of support among registered voters, according to that unreleased poll by Slingshot Strategies.
Such a run would be without precedent in American history, but disgraced former governors have mounted campaigns for other offices before.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
AOC hasn't spoken publicly about her ambitions for the governorship, but the former bartender from Queens has been linked to a potential primary challenge for Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer's seat next year. As recently as Monday, she wasn't ruling out challenging Schumer.
Ocasio-Cortez, a fierce progressive, would likely run to the left of Hochul, James or Cuomo, should she run. And given her profile, would likely attract a lot of national attention to a race that is already guaranteed to get quite a bit.
In that unreleased poll, by the way, she came in third, with eight percent of registered Democrats saying she'd get their vote.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand
Gillibrand is another name that would raise the profile of the gubernatorial race — and she reportedly received 6 percent of the vote in that Slingshot Strategies poll.
But the junior senator said as recently as last month that while she is interested in running for president again, a bid for governor is not in the cards.
"I don't think it's in my future," she said in an interview with Politico.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio
Many people thought it was a long shot when de Blasio entered the Democratic presidential primary in 2019 — and while it was — he still tossed his name in the ring, which is to say, don't rule out a potential run from hizzoner.
De Blasio has repeatedly entertained questions from reporters on whether he would challenge Cuomo, his political nemesis, in 2022. And as recently as last week he said he hadn't made any decisions.
"I haven't ruled in or ruled out anything," de Blasio said on Aug. 2. "I haven't made any decisions about the future."
As in his presidential bid, de Blasio would likely enter the race with dim prospects, given his popularity in and outside the five boroughs.
It's so early in the race at this point that a strong challenger could emerge from a lower-profile position, as happened with Zephyr Teachout and Cynthia Nixon, Cuomo's progressive challengers in 2014 and 2018. Here's a non-exhaustive list of other potential candidates:
- Jumaane Williams, New York City Public Advocate
- Tom DiNapoli, New York State Comptroller
- Steve Bellone, Suffolk County Executive
- Laura Curran, Nassau County Executive
- Andrea Stewart-Cousins, New York State Senate Majority Leader
- Michael Ginaris, New York State Senate Deputy Majority Leader
- Alessandra Biaggi, state senator