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Williams is closing in on a main challenge against Hochul

New York City Public Attorney Jumaane Williams, a popular figure in progressive New York circles, said his campaign was not about “running against anyone, but rather running for something.” .
| Michael M. Santiago / Getty Images

ALBANY, NY – New York City Public Attorney Jumaane Williams comes close to challenging Gov. Kathy Hochul in a Democratic primary next year, saying he will visit the state soon as he assesses a offer.

“We are announcing an official scouting committee for the Governor of New York State,” Williams said in an interview. “And that means we’re going to take some time to go around the state, talk to some people, open an advisory board, open an account, start talking politics.”

Williams, a popular figure in progressive New York circles, said his campaign was not “to run against anyone, but rather to run for something.”

“We present a vision of a different kind of Albany. As we start to recover and renew New York, we don’t want to go back to normal because normal has not worked for most New Yorkers, ”he said. “And in order to do that … you have to completely change who is there, especially in this position. [of governor], so we are going to present this vision to people.

Williams ran against Hochul in a primary for Lieutenant Governor in 2018. She beat him by seven points. He showed up on a ticket with aspiring governor Cynthia Nixon, capturing the attention of the left wing of the party, while Hochul was supported by the machinery of the State Democratic Committee. Much of the campaign was defined by Williams hammering Hochul for his alliance with the government of the day. Andrew Cuomo and Hochul attacked her for earlier views on abortion and same-sex marriage which she said did not enjoy full support.

Williams edged out Hochul in Brooklyn and Manhattan, but the current governor has won almost every other county in the state.

Williams said that although he has experience outside of New York City – he pointed to his previous role as head of NYS Tenants & Neighbors, a statewide organization fighting for tenant rights – it will have to start earlier this time around to build support networks across the state.

“A lesson from 2018 is that we want to start building a lot of infrastructure in a way that we didn’t have a few years ago,” he said.

The public attorney has since increased his presence in the upstate, spending some of his summer fundraising and organizing events on topics such as gun violence with other progressives.

Hochul, who became New York’s first female governor after Cuomo’s resignation in August, did not answer a question about Williams’ candidacy when entering the Capitol on Tuesday afternoon.

Williams is the first public official to openly prepare for a primary race against Hochul. But he probably won’t be the last, as different factions and leaders attempt to reorganize New York’s political landscape in a post-Cuomo world.

The most formidable potential challenger is widely regarded as Attorney General Tish James. Asked last week about her plans for 2022, James said she “appreciates[s] serving on the New York State Attorney General’s office and it’s entirely up to the people of New York State.

Rep. Tom Suozzi (DN.Y.) and Suffolk County Director Steve Bellone also reflected on a campaign. The same goes for the outgoing mayor of New York, Bill de Blasio. And there is a long list of other names.

Asked Tuesday, de Blasio said he wasn’t surprised to hear Williams could step in – and suggested he was still considering his own offer.

“I respect Jumaane Williams a lot. We have a good long history together, but we also obviously have areas on which we do not agree, ”de Blasio told reporters. The mayor said he intends to remain in the civil service after his term expires at the end of the year and is still considering “the best way to serve in the future”.

Erin Durkin contributed to this report.

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