ALBANY – The governor’s race has entered a money-sprint phase in which Democrats are rushing to build up donations ahead of a crucial reporting date in January and a state political convention in February, officials and analysts said.
Besides the money chase, the expanded Democratic field also has created an immediate pursuit of voters in suburban swing counties, with candidates announcing a spree of endorsements.
Over the last several weeks, three Democrats have joined Gov. Kathy Hochul in the race for the Democratic nomination: Rep. Tom Suozzi, Attorney General Letitia James and New York Public Advocate Jumaane Williams.
Over the next six weeks, candidates are trying to stockpile funds to make a strong showing by Jan. 15, the next date for reporting fund-raising totals per state law. State Democratic chairman Jay Jacobs said raising money is the main task for candidates right now.
Further, the January milestone falls about six weeks before the Democratic state convention. A strong financial showing could influence support at the convention and qualify a candidate for a primary. A poor one could cause a candidate to reconsider running altogether.
"Everyone thinks they can go out there and raise $20 million," said Rich Schaffer, Suffolk County Democratic chairman. "So January 15th will be a key date when everyone has to show their hand. … Then, I think there’s going to be a lot of discussion in January after the filing deadline."
Analysts said this window is crucial.
"With a crowded field, you want to establish yourself as a top-tier candidate and one way to make your candidacy viable is to show you have financial backing," said Lee Miringoff, Marist College pollster. "Doing well in the polls helps too, but you want to send a (financial) message that you’re in the mix."
Hochul says she’s already raised $10 million and insiders say she’s likely to hit $15 million by the reporting date. She got the jump on competitors by announcing – on Aug. 25, her first day in office after succeeding Andrew M. Cuomo – that she’d run for election in 2022.
None of the other Democrats – who jumped into the race in November -- likely will get near that amount of money by January. But they don’t need that much – they just need a sign of growing or sufficient financial support.
"At the end of the day, we’ll have enough funds to compete and win," James told reporters Thursday at an endorsement event in Westchester County. She had $1.6 million in her campaign account as of July.
Suozzi (D-Glen Cove), who declared his candidacy for governor on Monday, had $3 million in a congressional campaign account, which he can use to run for statewide office.
Williams had $62,000 in his campaign account in July.
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio also has been weighing a run.
Suozzi’s entry seemed to coincide with another immediate impact: the chase for suburban voters.
On Thursday, James announced she’s been endorsed by Westchester County Executive George Latimer – who’s also been mentioned as a possible lieutenant governor candidate – along with 12 county legislators.
At almost the same time, Hochul announced endorsements from Yonkers Mayor Mike Spano and six state legislators from Rockland and Westchester counties.
The timing might be no coincidence: Suozzi will be chasing some of the same voters.
"He doesn’t have a wide lane now, but he also doesn’t have no lane," said Lawrence Levy, executive dean of Hofstra University’s National Center for Suburban Studies. "If he raises enough money and spends it wisely, he could peel off a significant amount of suburban Democrats and moderate New Yorkers who were attracted to his ideological soulmate, Eric Adams."
Levy was referring to Adams, mayor-elect in New York City who won a crowded primary by appealing to centrist Democrats. Adams had said he considered naming Suozzi his deputy mayor, which was seen as a tacit endorsement of the Long Island congressman.
Along the same lines, Suozzi earlier this fall aligned with Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown to help the incumbent win reelection in a write-in campaign after losing to a Democratic socialist candidate in the Democratic primary.
Another factor that now comes into play: Democratic voters who still support Cuomo.
The ex-governor resigned in August to avoid a likely impeachment trial after an investigation overseen by James found he sexually harassed multiple women. Cuomo has repeatedly denied the accusations. Suozzi, while not supporting Cuomo’s behavior, has said the former governor accomplished a "tremendous amount" in office.
Levy said Suozzi could try to woo Cuomo supporters.
"I think his play is to tap into what I believe to be a not insignificant number of Democrats who still like Andrew Cuomo, might resent Tish James for supposedly bringing him down," Levy said, "and don’t prefer Kathy Hochul for whatever reasons."
With Michael Gormley