New York Attorney General Letitia James Defers When Asked About Run for Governor

New York Attorney General Letitia James, who oversaw the sexual harassment investigation into the former governor, Andrew Cuomo, deferred when asked if she would run for the position of governor.

James has not said whether she will run, but gave a speech Wednesday addressing an influential civic group in New York City where she rebuked Cuomo. James also called for reforms to a state ethics commission and "to make history, to break ground, to shatter society's self-imposed glass ceilings."

She was asked whether she would run, but did not give a definitive answer.

"I am focusing on my work, putting my head down and serving all of you as the attorney general," James said.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Letitia James
New York Attorney General Letitia James deferred when asked if she would run for the position of state governor. James attends the "Hometown Heroes" Ticker Tape Parade on July 7, 2021, in New York City. Roy Rochlin/Getty Images

After being vaulted into office two months ago, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul is preparing to run for the job in her own right next year.

But as she works to sculpt her reputation in the wake of Cuomo's resignation, a cohort of fellow Democrats is making moves to potentially challenge her in the primary.

New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams announced this week he's formed a committee to explore a run for governor, an office he could become only the second Black man to hold.

And New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who is term limited, hinted this week that he is also considering a gubernatorial campaign.

De Blasio, Williams, James and Hochul all attended a Brooklyn Democratic Party breakfast fundraiser Thursday.

"We haven't had a wide open, Democratic primary for governor like this in a long, long time," said Neal Kwatra, a Democratic strategist who worked on Cuomo's 2014 campaign and once served as chief of staff to former Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

"This is an authentically open primary, which I think makes it irresistible," he said.

Of all the potential challengers, James "is unquestionably the most formidable," Kwatra said, citing big battles she took on as attorney general and her strong base of support in New York City.

In less than three years, James has used her office to take on powerful targets beyond Cuomo, suing opioid manufacturers and the National Rifle Association and investigating former President Donald Trump's business affairs.

Hochul, a 63-year-old centrist and former member of Congress from the Buffalo area, is meanwhile working to quickly seize a political spotlight that Cuomo once dominated.

"Most New Yorkers didn't know who the heck she was until about a month ago," said Patrick J. Egan, an associate professor of politics at New York University. "So she not only has to get her name out there, she also has to establish her record and give people the sense that she's somebody that they want to lead the state."

To do that, she's been giving cable news interviews and making frequent appearances in the heavily populated, heavily Democratic New York City area, seen as critical in a statewide primary.

If several city politicians challenge her and split the downstate vote — James, Williams and de Blasio all call Brooklyn home — Hochul's connections to upstate and western New York could be a decisive advantage, Egan said.

During a news conference Thursday, Hochul said she's not preoccupied with potential challengers.

"I don't have to have the time to be distracted by the political noise," she said. "Everybody is free to do what they want. I've got a job to do and that is my focus."

She has pledged a fresh break from the decadelong Cuomo era, which ended amid sexual harassment allegations and the revelation that his administration released misleading statistics on COVID-19 deaths.

Cuomo's spokespeople have argued that the investigation into his conduct that James oversaw was biased against him because of her political ambitions — a charge that James has dismissed as unfounded.

Williams, a 45-year-old former city councilman, said if he runs, he'd present a break from the "toxicity' and "egos" seen in Albany, New York's capital.

"What I would like to bring is a different way of doing politics," he said in interview this week on NY1, a cable news station.

Williams, a regular presence at street demonstrations on racial injustice for years, is perhaps the most progressive potential contender to emerge so far. Hochul has already beaten him once before, when the two faced off in a race for lieutenant governor in 2018.

De Blasio, who launched a short-lived presidential campaign in 2019, has struggled with skewering tabloid headlines during his time running the nation's largest city.

His twilight months as mayor, intended as a full-throated celebration of the city's resurgence following the pandemic, have been marred by the coronavirus' refusal to go away and a crisis at the city's Rikers Island jail, which has struggled with staffing shortages and prisoner deaths.

De Blasio said this week that he wants to keep serving the city and the state after his term ends in December.

"I want to continue working on issues that I care about deeply," he said at a news conference this week. "So, you know, I'm going to figure out the best way I can serve going forward."

Kathy Hochul
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul is planning to run officially for the position after she took office when former governor Andrew Cuomo resigned. Hochul speaks at Global Citizen Live in Central Park on Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021, in New York. Evan Agostini/Invision/AP