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N.Y. Governor Poll Shows Hochul Leading James and Williams

N.Y. Governor Poll Shows Hochul Leading James and Williams

A Marist College poll found that voters favored Gov. Kathy Hochul over potential primary rivals, including the state attorney general, Letitia James.

Gov. Kathy Hochul, at the Columbus Day Parade in Manhattan on Monday, has said she wants to raise $25 million for the Democratic primary race.
Credit…Dave Sanders for The New York Times

Luis Ferré-Sadurní

When Kathy Hochul unexpectedly became governor of New York two months ago, she was immediately faced with two challenges: Leading a state traversing a pandemic while simultaneously building a statewide campaign operation to run for a full term next year.

Right away, Ms. Hochul began courting donors and hiring campaign staff, as she faced the prospect of potentially running against Letitia James, the state attorney general, whose office led the sexual harassment investigation that ultimately led to the demise of former Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, and to Ms. Hochul’s ascension.

Ms. Hochul’s efforts appear to be paying off: A Marist College poll released on Tuesday found that Ms. Hochul would beat Ms. James and Jumaane Williams, the New York City public advocate, if next year’s Democratic primary for governor were held today.

The poll, the first significant survey to gauge New Yorkers’ views on the 2022 Democratic primary for governor, also found that Ms. Hochul would win the primary if Mr. Cuomo, the former three-term governor who resigned in disgrace in August, decided to run again.

In a hypothetical three-way primary, 44 percent of New York Democrats said they would vote for Ms. Hochul, 28 percent for Ms. James and 15 percent for Mr. Williams, while 13 percent said they were unsure.

In a four-way race that included Mr. Cuomo, 36 percent of Democratic voters said they favored Ms. Hochul, while 24 percent said they would vote for Ms. James, 19 percent for Mr. Cuomo and 9 percent for Mr. Williams; 12 percent said they were unsure.

The poll comes at a very early point in the race: The primary, which will be held in June, is more than eight months away, and Ms. Hochul is the only Democrat who has formally declared her candidacy.

The poll also did not include other potential Democratic candidates who are thought to be considering a run for governor, including Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York City and Representative Thomas Suozzi of Long Island.

But the findings of the poll were reassuring for Ms. Hochul, who was elevated to governor after Mr. Cuomo stepped down amid a sexual harassment scandal, and who has made significant strides introducing herself to voters after nearly two terms as lieutenant governor, a largely ceremonial role.

Since taking office, she has made responding to the fallout of the pandemic her top priority. She has also kept a packed schedule of public appearances and moved vigorously to fund-raise in hopes of raising $25 million for her campaign next year.

Indeed, the Marist Institute for Public Opinion poll found that Ms. Hochul is already enjoying the benefits of incumbency: Fifty-five percent of New Yorkers said they had a favorable view of her, while 32 percent said they had an unfavorable impression. Her favorability rating was 70 percent among Democrats and 26 percent among Republicans.

Mr. Williams, a left-wing Democrat from Brooklyn who unsuccessfully ran for lieutenant governor against Ms. Hochul in 2018, announced an exploratory committee for governor last month and is expected to make a decision soon.

Ms. James, another Brooklyn Democrat, is also seriously considering a run for governor. She recently embarked on a campaign-like tour of the state and has been discussing her ambitions with donors and elected officials.

“It’s an honor and a privilege to be urged to run for the office of governor,” Ms. James said at the annual New Yorker Festival on Sunday evening. “But at this point in time, one, as a woman of faith, I’m still praying on it. Two, I’m still considering the options, and three, I’m considering where best I can make transformational change in the State of New York.”

When Mr. Cuomo resigned, his top aide said Mr. Cuomo had no intention of running again for governor, but he still has a daunting $18 million campaign war chest, leading to speculation that he may decide to jump in or otherwise meddle in the race. His campaign website, which does not mention his resignation, is still active and appears to be accepting donations.

In recent weeks, Mr. Cuomo’s campaign has sent emails to supporters, including one last week in which he described the report from the attorney general’s office as “politically and personally motivated.”

Were Mr. Cuomo to run, he would need to overcome the damaging fallout from the report, which found he sexually harassed multiple women, including staff members, and fostered a toxic workplace. Mr. Cuomo has forcefully denied the claims.

Indeed, 74 percent of Democrats polled by Marist said they did not want Mr. Cuomo to run for governor next year.

Among the Democrats surveyed, 53 percent said they had an unfavorable view of Mr. Cuomo, while 42 percent said they had a favorable view. More women (46 percent) than men (36 percent) said they had a favorable impression of Mr. Cuomo, while more nonwhite Democrats (53 percent) than white Democrats (30 percent) said they viewed Mr. Cuomo favorably.

The Marist poll surveyed 822 adults in New York from Oct. 4 to Oct. 7 through telephone interviews; 52 percent identified as Democrats, 24 percent as Republicans and 24 percent said they were not enrolled with either party.