Cuomo’s resignation opens potentially wide-open governor’s race

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Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s resignation Tuesday set the stage for what could prove to be a political free for all next year when candidates vying for governor slug it out to see who will run the state.

Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul is expected to take over the reins of state government in 14 days, and while many political observers predict she’ll run for the top job as an incumbent in 2022, Cuomo’s departure also means other potential candidates who’ve been waiting in the wings will feel emboldened to run as well.

Atop that list are Hochul and New York State Attorney General Letitia James, whose report corroborating the sexual harassment allegations against Cuomo ultimately led to his resignation. Other Democrats thought to be considering runs are state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Queens), New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, Nassau County Executive Laura Curran, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, and — although it’s probably a long shot — Cuomo himself.

Republicans expected to run include Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Suffolk) and Andrew Giuliani, the son of former Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

Some in Cuomo’s orbit have predicted he would resign in order to regroup and mount a run for a fourth term, but others view it as unlikely because, in spite of his resignation, he could still face impeachment and be barred from running for statewide office again.

Hank Sheinkopf, a longtime political consultant who’s worked both for and against Cuomo over the years, predicted the soon-to-be-former governor would opt against another campaign due to the threat of impeachment and the criminal and civil litigation he’s still facing.

“All of these factors lead him not to run,” Sheinkopf said. “He has real legal problems.”

Sheinkopf predicts “a line around the block” of candidates who will run for governor, given the fact that they likely will no longer have to contend with Cuomo’s sizable campaign war chest.

On Tuesday, political veterans gave Hochul the inside track to winning the next full term as governor, though, because she’ll presumably be an incumbent when the race kicks off and is seen as a steady and competent contrast to Cuomo, who for years has weathered barbs for his imperious style and overseeing a toxic work environment.

Hochul, who hails from Buffalo and served in Congress before becoming lieutenant governor, is a moderate who over the years has kept a relatively low profile during her time serving as second-in-line to the state’s top job.

“Obviously, Hochul,” said Ken Sherrill, a political science professor emeritus at Hunter College, when asked to handicap the 2022 governor’s race. “Of the lot, she has the best shot because she’ll have the advantages of incumbency.”

He also pointed to the fact that, as lieutenant governor, Hochul has essentially been barnstorming around the state and building relationships for more than a decade.

Hochul’s team did not immediately respond to messages Tuesday.

But Sherrill and other veterans of city and state politics also view James as potentially a very strong candidate.

Although she ran for attorney general with Cuomo’s blessing in 2018, James is now viewed as the women who ultimately forced Cuomo to step down. Her campaign declined to comment on whether she is planning a run or not.

Over the years, James, who’s served as the city’s public advocate and as a city councilwoman, has built up a sizable base among progressives and, in her run for AG, proved that she could win statewide election. But some question whether she’ll be able to expand that base beyond the city and its immediate suburbs — especially in what could be a crowded primary field in 2022.

Part of that field could include, Williams, who, according to a source with knowledge of his thinking, is considering a run too. Suozzi ”has been taking a look at” a run as well, according to a source close to him.

De Blasio, who has been embroiled in a feud with Cuomo for years, has brushed aside questions about running for the job repeatedly in recent weeks, but has not ruled it out publicly.

Ultimately, who prevails in 2022 will have a lot to do with how Hochul performs in the coming months, predicted Dick Ravitch, who briefly served as David Paterson’s lieutenant governor in 2009 and 2010.

“It all depends on how she does as governor,” Ravitch said. “If she’s successful, she could even avoid a primary.”

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