From upstate to downstate on Tuesday, you could hear sighs of relief from Democrats — even from fans and allies of Attorney General Letitia James, who had just revealed she would pack in her weeks-old bid for governor.
One veteran operative in Queens who hails her role as AG said repeatedly and privately for weeks that James' bid for governor was a bad idea. And after hearing that she "suspended" her campaign, leaving Gov. Kathy Hochul as a clear front-runner, other James allies spoke of how she wasn't really a fundraiser, and preferred the tasks of her current job to campaigning.
An Albany consultant called the 63-year-old Brooklynite's withdrawal "a remarkable act of self-awareness." Or perhaps, one cynic guessed, it reflected awareness of something nobody knows about yet. This is politics, after all.
Everyone knew from the start it would be a sticky business for her to aspire to the Executive Mansion from which she had a role in pushing out Andrew M. Cuomo, and that he and his true fan base would come after her politically. His lawyer is still working to denounce and discredit her handling of the famous abuse complaints. On Tuesday she publicly urged Cuomo to "move on."
Another declared primary candidate, Rep. Tom Suozzi of Glen Cove, said in a statement that James "has tremendous responsibilities as the sitting AG & I understand her desire to devote her energies to seeing through & continuing the important matters before her."
Clearly, state and Nassau party chairman Jay Jacobs, a prime Hochul backer, would love to hear Suozzi soon say the same about himself — that his post in Congress also requires his seeing through the matters before him, and that he should therefore seek reelection.
Jacobs said he hoped James' decision to seek reelection would deter Suozzi, his longtime ally, from seeking to emerge from a crowded pack, since that pack has thinned. He said the rout of local Democrats at the polls last month showed the party will need to muster all the unity it can to prevail in 2022.
Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley), the front-runner for the GOP nomination for governor, issued a quirky statement that left out Hochul but hyped the chances of New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, who's announced for Albany's top spot before even being sworn in to his second full municipal term.
"Christmas came early for Jumaane Williams," Zeldin said. "With Letitia James out of the race, the field in New York City — the highest concentration of New York’s Democratic Party Primary voters — is clearer than ever for Jumaane...
"Couple that with his far-left credentials and he is well on his way to becoming the Democratic Party nominee for Governor."
Clearly Zeldin, a player in the right-wing GOP House caucus, is running against scary left-wing urban radicalism regardless of whether one of its champions makes it to the election ballot.
In another result of her jumping back into contention for attorney general, James may well cut short the campaigns of those who have begun vying to succeed her.
On that front, perhaps James will still have a primary and general-election fight next year — but one in which she'd hold an incumbent's advantage.
Every day, the extended epilogue to Cuomo's fall seems to take a surprise turn.
Columnist Dan Janison's opinions are his own.