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NY Attorney General Letitia James’ Announces Gubernatorial Run, How That May Shape The 2022 Campaign

Her rise in the political universe could make her the first Black woman to win the position in U.S. history, but the path ahead still has challenges.

New York Attorney General Letitia James  announced her candidacy for governor on Friday (Oct. 29) with a video on Twitter and winning next year's election would make her the first Black woman in U.S. history to take the governorship of any state. But in running for the office, she would likely face Cuomo’s replacement, Kathy Hochul, and what may be a crowded field among Democrats.

The announcement comes just months after a sexual harassment investigation from her office toppled the decade-long tenure of former governor and her one-time ally Andrew Cuomo. There has been speculation about her potential candidacy for months, even while that investigation was moving forward and now an announcement is expected before the week is out.

With a gubernatorial run in 2022, not only would James face an incumbent Hochul, but among her possible competitors for Democratic votes are New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, who ends his term in January; Rep. Thomas Suozzi, who represents part of Long Island and had already been looked at as a major challenger to a Hochul; and Jumaane Williams, the New York City Public Advocate and fellow Brooklynite, who has filed official paperwork with the state elections board to run, according to Bloomberg News.

James, 63, rose up the ranks in New York politics, first serving as a New York City Council member from from 2004 to 2013, representing several communities in Brooklyn that are heavily populated by African Americans and which wield significant political influence. She also preceded Williams as Public Advocate, serving from 2013 to 2018 before moving on to become attorney general.

She would also bring heavy support into a gubernatorial run from progressives and the grass roots, which has been behind her through her political career and of which she has been an advocate. An example of that was a lawsuit she filed against the NYPD after complaints of overly aggressive policing during Black Lives Matter protests in 2020.

“What we are seeking is broad injunctive relieve to address these longstanding and systemic problems at the NYPD,” James said in an interview with BET.com, earlier this year, calling for new focus on systemic problems in the department. “So, it calls for a reexamining, a rethinking of policing not only in New York City, but all across the country.”


Patrick Egan, Professor of Politics and Public Policy at New York University believes James would likely be entering a crowded field and would probably want to clear that field of candidates who appeal to similar voter bases. But if she winds up the only Black candidate it could mean a quick coalescing of support among Black Democrats. But in competition with Williams it may look different.

“They could fight for progressive voters and Black voters so it’s a question of the competition between the two of them,” Egan told BET.com. But James' national profile was raised when she took on the National Rifle Association, when she sued to dissolve the group; and former president Donald Trump in a criminal inquiry. That may get her major attention as she vies for a position that has in the past led to the White House for other New York governors.

“That move could help her in a statewide Democratic primary,” Egan explained. “But you also have to think about whether it becomes a difficulty in the primary because a lot of gun supporters upstate might not vote for her and that could be a little bit of a challenge, so there’s both costs and benefits because of the positions she’s had in the past.”

RELATED: New York Attorney General Letitia James Explains The State’s Lawsuit Against The NYPD And The Need For Reform

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Although the New York gubernatorial election is a year away and James would have to first win the Democratic primary and then campaign against whoever the Republican contender might be, if she makes it to office in 2023, like every New York governor, she would need to have a relationship with whomever becomes mayor of New York City. The current favorite is Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, and with both of them coming from the borough its political strength is likely to extend into Albany for years to come.

But very early polling shows that James would still have her work cut out for her. Hochul is leading the Democratic field, according to local news outlet NY1, with 31 percent of the vote, followed by Cuomo, who has not spoken of any plans to run again, at 17 percent and James at 14 percent.

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